Two offensive paintings that once hung in the Minnesota Governor’s Reception Room have been taken down, leaving bare walls.
The painting of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux used to hang over the fireplace. It was the prominent backdrop to any major media event held in this room.
At the far end of the Reception Room hung a painting showing Father Hennepin “discovering” the Falls at St. Anthony. It, too, was taken down and moved.
The Art Subcommittee charged with making recommendations about Capitol art yielded to pressure to remove these two problematic paintings from such a prominent space. Sadly, it couldn’t bring itself to move them out of the Capitol altogether into a museum where they belong.
Both of these works have been moved to a space called the “Cass Gilbert Library,” named for the Capitol’s architect. This is a low traffic area on the Capitol’s third floor, on the far end of the east wing.
The Art Subcommittee recommended keeping the other four large paintings in the Governor’s Reception Room in place; all four are Civil War battle scenes
involving Minnesota regiments. That decisoin puts the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) in something of an aesthetic jam.
MHS has to find new art for those two blank walls. They have to be right size, and they have to fit artistically. Further — we hope — they represent something that happened in the state after the 19th Century.
It will be a challenge.
It appears that these spaces will remain empty for some time, according to an email statement from Jessica Kohen, public relations manager for the Minnesota Historical Society.
We have not made any decisions about new art for the Governor’s Reception Room. Our Executive Council (governing board) is working with MNHS staff to put together a plan for this work. This work will take some time.