Walker Art Center Acquires Merce Cunningham Dance Co. Collection

Walker Art Center Acquires Merce Cunningham Dance Co. Collection

The Walker Art Center and Cunningham Dance Foundation (CDF) announce the Walker's acquisition of a comprehensive collection of artist-made set pieces, costumes, painted drops, and props, created for the internationally renowned Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC). Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) redefined the visual and performing arts through pioneering collaborations with leading artists, designers, and musicians. More than 150 objects created by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, John Cage, and Frank Stella will arrive at the Walker this year and be displayed for the first time beginning in November 2011. The placement of these works at the Walker supports a key goal of CDF's Legacy Plan-ensuring the preservation and ongoing accessibility of the Company's singular collection of 20th century art.

The acquisition of major works from the MCDC collection aligns with the Walker's cross-disciplinary collecting strategy and its mission to present contemporary art in a multidisciplinary context, in order to foster an understanding of the nexus between artistic disciplines. The acquisition marks a major landmark in both the museum and dance fields, making the Walker a new center for research and scholarship of Cunningham's work, and presenting a new model for preserving works created by multiple artists in support of a single choreographer's artistic vision.

"The acquisition of these works is groundbreaking for the Walker and for the museum field at large, affirming our longstanding commitment to bringing together diverse artistic practices to form a cross-disciplinary blend of programs," said Walker Executive Director Olga Viso. "We enjoyed a lasting relationship with Cunningham beginning in the early 1960s and look forward to inspiring future generations with programs, exhibitions, and new scholarship devoted to his legacy of innovation and collaboration."

The Walker will present its first installation of works from the collection in November 2011, in an exhibition focusing on Cunningham's creative collaborations with major artists. This exhibition coincides with MCDC's final engagement at the Walker, to be presented November 4 - 6, 2011, as part of the Company's farewell Legacy Tour. The engagement continues a relationship that began in 1963, when MCDC was first presented by the Walker. The November performances will be the company's first performance actually held inside the Walker (all past MCDC performances have been off-site or have been outdoors).The Walker will organize additional exhibitions exploring Cunningham's collaborations with artists over the next three years.

"The Walker is one of MCDC's most dedicated and longstanding partners, and the center's unique commitment to both the visual and performing arts makes it the perfect steward for the company's extraordinary collection," said Trevor Carlson, Executive Director of the Cunningham Dance Foundation. "Similar to the placement of the Merce Cunningham Archives at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in 2003, the Walker's acquisition of this collection assures that this vital element of Merce Cunningham's legacy is preserved for future generations to study and experience firsthand."

The Walker is acquiring more than 150 objects dating back to 1942, when Cunningham began his distinguished 67-year career. During that time, Cunningham choreographed nearly 200 dances, most of which involved significant collaborations with leading visual artists who contributed unique set pieces and costumes. Notably, the collection contains Robert Rauschenberg's combine Minutiae (1954/1976) and his costumes for Antic Meet (1958), Frank Stella's set pieces for Scramble (1967), and the mylar pillows from Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds installation used for RainForest (1968), as well as works created independently by John Cage, Cunningham's life partner, that were ultimately incorporated into MCDC dances. The collection also includes set pieces and costumes created in the Company's later years by a younger generation of artists, including Ernesto Neto and the fashion designer Rei Kawakubo.

The presentation of the MCDC collection at the Walker will be further enhanced by other objects from Cunningham's career already in the Walker collection, including Jasper Johns' set pieces for Cunningham's Walkaround Time (1968) after Marcel Duchamp (purchased in 2000); the video installation by Molly Davies and Richard Weise showing David Tudor's preparation of the electronic score for Cunningham's Ocean (also purchased in 2000); Tacita Dean's elegiac film installation Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS (in three movements) to John Cage's composition 4'33" with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances, six films) (purchased in 2010); and four ink drawings by Cunningham. In addition, the Walker's collection contains pivotal works by Johns, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Stella, and Warhol, positioning the Walker to link Cunningham's work with that of his collaborators.

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