The Minneapolis Institute of Art, a.k.a. MIA, lands blockbuster shows like nobody’s business. Last year’s marquee exhibition, “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty,” was conceptualized and designed by Robert Wilson, a giant of the New York theater scene who has worked with Lou Reed, Lady Gaga, and Merce Cunningham. Wilson’s visionary presentation of royal objects from the Qing Dynasty elicited visceral reactions from museumgoers: Some folks found the Mylar-covered walls and soundscape of ceremonial music punctuated with eardrum-rupturing screams to be a bit much.
Us? We loved it. The off-the-wall, multi-sensory show encouraged us to ponder objects we’d otherwise gloss right past, like Daoist paintings hung in pitch blackness to evoke the cavelike mountain retreats of monks, or an imperial throne from the Qianlong period, bathed in blood-red light to inspire “fearsome authority.”
The MIA’s current headliner, “Egypt’s Sunken Cities,” showcases more than 250 antiquities excavated from Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, two ancient towns that disappeared into the Mediterranean Sea some 1,200 years ago. French archaeologist Frank Goddio and his team at the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology recovered hundreds of remarkable artifacts from their dives, including a corn mummy in a falcon-headed coffin decorated with hieroglyphs; a 17.7-foot-tall statue of Hapy, god of fertility and a symbol of the Nile floods; and a 2,682-year-old statute of Osiris, newly awakened after death. The show runs through April 14, 2019.
All told, there are more than 89,000 works in the MIA collection, spanning six continents and 20,000 years. Wander through any gallery and you might encounter rare ukiyo-e prints, Nigerian wax paintings, a monumental stone yogini sculpture from 10th-century India, abstract Mbuti barkcloth from the Congo, the photorealistic brushstrokes of Chuck Close, or wild characters from the whacked-out mind of Red Grooms. And coming this summer, from June 2 through August 18, 2019: “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists,” a collaboration with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community that celebrates a millennium’s worth of pottery, textiles, and paintings by 115 female artists from throughout Canada and the United States.
General admission to the MIA is free; some special exhibitions and events require tickets. The museum is closed on Mondays but stays open late every Thursday and Friday (till 9 p.m.).
Minneapolis Institute of Art
2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN; 612-870-3000.