A big ‘wow’ at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum

I went to a shindig at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum yesterday, enticed by curator Jon Swanson with the promise, “We’re going to blow people away with what we’re unveiling.” Now I wouldn’t exactly call myself jaded, but frankly I thought that was going to be a pretty tall order for a museum that has already unveiled a couple of Monets, a Renoir, and paintings of the Titanic made by a passenger on the Carpathia while the Titanic sank. I mean seriously, how many of those are out there?

But then Jon said the magic words: hors d’ oeuvres and wine, and I said, ‘Jon, I’m so in.’ Hahaha, I’m kidding. Well kind of.

The truth is that the museum is one of my true loves in Winona. It is this beautiful building sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River, regal even, with tens of thousands of native prairie grasses and flowers planted around it and a promenade-style patio where you can sit and soak it all in.

But what’s inside this museum makes it perhaps the most special and the most misunderstood facility for 200 miles…

When I heard someone was going to build a “marine art museum” in Winona my thoughts immediately went to the maritime museum up in the harbor in Duluth, a nice little place filled with things like ship’s wheels and bells, old tools they used on board big tugs and cargo vessels, and maps of the Great Lakes. It’s an interesting place to while away an afternoon, but not exactly something I would get really excited about.

Yeah. Well this isn’t that. This is art, and by art I mean ART– the kind that’s pictured in textbooks, stowed away in private collections sometimes for centuries, and costs about the same as a small city in France.

It’s so unexpected, so intriguing, I don’t think you can walk through this museum and not be blown away that it exists in our beautiful little river town.

That said, I didn’t know how Jon Swanson was going to top it. I mean, what else can you add to a place that already has some of the most important art in the world in it?

Well how about Van Gogh.

Yes, Minnesota Marine Art Museum unveiled, among other things, Vincent Van Gogh’s earliest and best documented oil painting, a sea scene called “The Beach of Scheveningen” painted in 1882. They also showed off a new Winslow Homer painting that I loved, and three other works going on display Tuesday.

And in perhaps the most serendipitous moment of the evening, Mary Burrichter and Bob Kierlin announced that the Van Gogh, which is special beyond people’s wildest imaginations, is going to be loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for a bit.

Let me say that again: A painting hanging in Winona is so incredible that the Metropolitan Museum of Art wants to borrow it.

Last week I wrote a blog about how Winona is rocking as an arts and history destination, so much so that even New York City could learn a thing or two from us. Big words, I know, but seriously folks, if you didn’t believe me last week, how about now?

I know it’s not polite to gloat, but it feels awesome being right 🙂

A gallery being set up inside the Minnesota Marine Art Museum

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