The newest exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art begins before you even enter the museum. Artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei’s Safe Passage envelopes Mia’s exterior columns. The monumental installation, which appeared in Germany, Japan, and Chile before making its U.S. debut here in Minneapolis, comprises thousands of discarded lifejackets worn by refugees during the treacherous voyage from Turkey to Greece. (Most of them were fleeing war in Syria and Afghanistan.) It’s a haunting work and a fair taste of what awaits inside.
The first gallery in ‘When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Art and Migration’ opens with a heart-wrenching excerpt from a poem by British-Somali poet Warsan Shire:
No one leaves home
unless home is the mouth of a shark.
You only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.
Your neighbours running faster than you,
they you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
This moving exhibition includes more than 40 works by 21 artists, each wrestling with ideas of migration, immigration, alienation, displacement, and an ever-evolving definition of ‘home.’ As with most Mia exhibitions, the public is invited to scribble out thoughts about their impressions and personal experiences; the neighborly disclosure can be just as enlightening. (Minnesota, after all, is home to the highest number of refugees per capita nationwide.)
The show runs through May 24, 2020; general admission is $20 and Mia members pay $16. If you’re not already a member of the museum, now is a great time to join. Fees for special exhibitions are waved for members during My Mia Week, which runs through Sunday, March 1.
And hey, while you’re there, check out the small but terrific ‘Yoshitoshi: Master Draftsman Transformed’ exhibition in the Cargill Gallery. Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1939-1892) was the last artist to make it big in ukiyo-e, a.k.a. traditional Japanese woodblock printing. Three years ago, Mia acquired about 300 of his prints and drawings, some of which are displayed here. The devil is in the details on these original sketches; you can practically count the beard hairs. ‘Yoshitoshi’ runs through April 12. Don’t miss it!
Minneapolis Institute of Art
2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN; 612-870-3000.