Originally established to focus on furniture, metalwork, ceramics, and glass, the department today encompasses more than 18,000 works in all mediums from America and Europe, from the Middle Ages to the present.
Many collectors and donors have contributed to the porcelain and pottery collection, which includes eighteenth-century French faience from Mrs. John P. Rutherfurd, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English delft from Mr. and Mrs. George R. Steiner, and Chinese Export porcelain from Leo and Doris Hodroff. Domestic interiors and furnishings spanning four centuries are presented in the MIA’s nine period rooms, with a 1730 grand salon from the Hôtel de la Bouëxière in Paris, which has been restored with funds from the Groves Foundation.
The department’s textile collection has gained an international reputation for its spectacular individual pieces as well as its impressive holdings of European tapestries, early Italian laces, passementerie, Kashmir shawls, and Turkish embroideries. Textiles from the Jack Lenor Larsen company archive and the Norwest Modernism Collection have broadened the scope of the collection’s twentieth-century holdings, complementing its already strong collection of contemporary fiber art.
A particular strength of the MIA’s decorative arts collection includes English, American and Continental silver, which is showcased in the Mary Agnes and Al McQuinn Gallery (350). MIA trustee and silver collector James Ford Bell established the foundation of the museum’s collection with numerous gifts, including a monumental eighteenth-century wine cistern by English Huguenot silversmith Paul de Lamerie and the most complete neoclassical tea service known by Paul Revere, Jr. The McQuinn Fund continues to support purchases of great English and Continental objects such as the Richmond racing cup designed by Robert Adam and an elaborate covered cup made in Strasbourg by Johann Friedrich Baer.
Sculpture from the Middle Ages to 1960 includes important works by Amedeo Modigliani, Sir Jacob Epstein, John Bernard Flannagan, Constantin Brancusi, Henri Matisse, and Henry Moore. Recent acquisitions in this area include Raymond Duchamp-Villon’s Head of Baudelaire (1911), and Alberto Giacometti’s Diego (196).
The Harold and Mickey Smith Gallery (362) features one of the most comprehensive permanent collections of Jewish ritual art found in an American art museum. Rotations include prints, photographs, and textiles. Purchases of modern and contemporary Judaica are made possible by the Eloise and Elliot Kaplan Fund for Judaica.
The department is strong in modernist design, including the Prairie School-style Purcell-Cutts House (1913), designed by William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie for the Purcell family. In addition, the MIA houses one of the best collections of Prairie School material in the country, presented in the Bob Ulrich and Jill Dahlin Architecture and Design Gallery (355). The Norwest Modernism Collection is a major component of the department’s holdings, comprising nearly 500 objects dating from 1880 to 1940. In recent decades, the department has built up a significant collection of contemporary studio ceramics, glass, and wood. A current focus is design of the Scandinavian and Nordic countries. The MIA continues to showcase these collections at the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Minneapolis. On the Web, they are represented by the award-winning sites Unified Vision: The Architecture and Design of the Prairie School and Modernism.
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