Visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum

Second bucket list item: check.

Last night I made my way to Milwaukee’s lakefront to check out the Milwaukee Art Museum. We arrived at the museum around 5, and despite it being Target Free First Thursday, it wasn’t too busy.

The front entrance sets the tone for the majestic museum. Upon entering, you’re granted this spectacular view:

Quadracci Pavilion

Famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed this addition, which is known as the Quadracci Pavilion and was completed in 2001. It was Calatrava’s first project in the United States, and it has become an icon for the museum and the city.

Pavilion ceilingQuadracci Pavilion Pavilion ceiling

After a few obligatory pictures of the gorgeous pavilion, we made our way into the first featured exhibit, Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection (open through May 6). The exhibit features more than 300 works by self-taught artists and was donated to the museum by Anthony Petullo, a longtime member of the museum’s board of directors and retired entrepreneur and author.

The exhibit was fascinating. Full disclosure: I know next to nothing about art (words have always been my creative outlet), but I can definitely appreciate the skill, talent, creativity and patience that go into creating it. Two artists that stuck with me were James Lloyd and his incredibly intricate pointillist paintings, and Rosemarie Koczy and her haunting pen drawings. Koczy, a Swiss woman (and later American citizen) who survived two concentration camps, wrote “I Weave You a Shroud” on the back of her drawings. One I saw in the museum also had “I miss my family. I miss my brother.” written on it. Intense stuff.   As I perused the exhibit and read the backgrounds of these self-taught artists, it was interesting to see how many of them did not start creating until later in life – often in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Many also spent time in mental facilities. I think there’s some truth to the fact that most people who reach genius level in their field, whether it is art, literature, science or whatever, are perceived to not be “normal” by societal standards. There’s nothing normal about greatness.

After touring the featured exhibit, we made our way through some of the museum’s permanent collection. Some highlights include this lion painting (The Two Majesties by Jean-Léon Gérôme), which a follower of our Facebook page told me not to miss:

The Two Majesties

This furniture was also interesting. What year and country do you think it is from?

Furniture

It’s actually German furniture from 1820 (night stands) and 1825/30 (couch). Who would have thought? Looks like it’s straight from the 1970s. Talk about being ahead of your time.

One of our final stops was at Chair Park on the museum’s lower level. My friends and I each picked a chair to rest in (you can sit in all of them!), and one of my friends remarked on how the chairs we picked pretty accurately reflected our personalities. I’m not sure what my choice says about me…

Chair Park

We spent a little over two hours in the museum and didn’t even make it to the permanent collections on the upper level. Overall it was a great visit, and I can’t wait to make my way back soon to see everything else. We’re very lucky to have such a gem of an art museum in Milwaukee, and I don’t intend to take it for granted any more.

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