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Weisman Promises $3 Million to U. of Minnesota Art Museum

January 06, 1990|SHAUNA SNOW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles art collector Frederick R. Weisman has pledged $3 million to the University of Minnesota in the hopes that his alma mater's art museum will finally get a home of its own to be designed by Santa Monica-based architect Frank Gehry.

"I went to the University of Minnesota and I was born in Minneapolis, so there's a lot of strong ties there," Weisman said. "Minnesota means a great deal to me, and the city of Minneapolis is important to me."

Although he said that he was "very excited" about plans for the new museum, Weisman stressed that the donation through his Frederick R. Weisman Foundation of Los Angeles must still be approved by the university's board of regents, which he is scheduled to meet on Friday.

If approved by the board of regents, the $8-million structure will occupy a conspicuous site at the east end of the Washington Avenue Bridge. Gehry's firm was selected in November after a two-year search. Gehry was in New York on business and could not be reached for comment.

"My feet haven't touched the ground since I heard about (Weisman's gift)," said Lyndel King, director of the university art museum. "This means that we will be able to build a new museum here at the University of Minnesota, and that has been a dream of mine for a long time."

Weisman's $3-million gift would qualify for a matching grant from the University of Minnesota Foundation. The foundation has already matched $1 million previously raised. With the Weisman grant and match, the museum would have the $8 million estimated cost for the building.

"I don't want to presume that this is something that's really going to happen until they approve it," said Weisman, whose foundation holds workshops on art and architecture-related topics, presents traveling exhibitions and loans works to American embassies overseas. "But they're talking about starting work on the building later this year, and they're talking about it taking about three years to finish the museum completely."

Weisman hinted that his relationship with the University of Minnesota and museum officials, might continue.

"If we're going to assist them with building this museum, then we're going to be awfully sure that they have art to show in there," said Weisman, whose foundation has sizable holdings in post-World War II art. The name of the building would be determined by the Weisman Foundation, he said.

Founded in 1934, the museum has spent its entire existence in the university's Northrop Auditorium, where it is hampered by inadequate office and exhibition space, insufficient security and lack of climate control for displayed artwork. Its collection, which over the years has grown to some 12,000 objects, is stored in four scattered locations, according to reports.

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