By Coco Mault

Since the Minneapolis Institute of Arts first opened its doors in 1915, the museum’s permanent collection has grown from 800 works of art to nearly 80,000 objects. And can you believe they keep some of those pieces outside?

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Because of their size, a pair of Chinese guardian lions may be the first sculptures people notice when visiting the museum. The marble lions command attention from their elaborate platforms on the grand staircase up to the museum’s seasonal entrance on 24th street. Both lions have a fierce look on their faces. Their brows are slanted downward in a fury over their eyes, and each appears to be growling or roaring. But they are slightly, slightly different from one another; one of them sits with its right front foot resting on a ball, the other sits with its left front foot resting on a cub. It is unknown who sculpted them.

(credit: Coco Mault)

Very near the lions is an 18-foot high bronze sculpture entitled “The Fighter of the Spirit” by artist Ernst Barlach. The figure looks to be an angel — a tall man with a furrowed brow and large wings on his back. He is glancing downward while holding a sword in front of his chest. Even more interesting than the wings on this sculpture is the fact that the figure is standing upon what looks to be some sort of large lioness-like cat.

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Also on the 24th-street side of the Institute of Arts is the outdoor Chinese garden. It is set far from the sidewalk though, and best viewed from inside the museum, in the lobby seating area for the Arts Break cafe. The garden features a handful of large pieces, including a piece of limestone, which appears stark and cold as it sits next to a piece of reddish steatite — it almost looks like a giant piece of wood. According to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts website, the rocks symbolize the mountains of the Buddhist and Taoist immortals and are admired for their unusual shapes and abstract beauty.

(credit: Coco Mault)

There is a garden, Target Park, behind the Institute, which features a handful of large, abstract sculptures. Take note of the garden’s focal piece, Labyrinth, by contemporary artist John Willenbecher. A black steel roof is set upon tall granite columns, creating a pavilion. Stand under it and see wide lines that have been cut into the steel, creating a labyrinth-like pattern. There is only one path that leads to a large circle cut out in the middle. Sometimes we don’t look up enough, and Willenbecher’s piece, along with many of the Institute’s outdoor sculptures, certainly demands visitors do so.

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Minneapolis Institute of Art
2400 3rd Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404-3506
Hours: Tue – Wed, Fri – Sat 10 am – 5 pm; Thurs 10 am – 9 pm; Sun 11 am – 5 pm
Free admission
(612) 870-3000
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