Des Moines Art Center
Here’s the great thing about the Des Moines Art Center: It’s not a huge commitment. For one thing, admission is free. And you can easily view all of the museum’s holdings in an hour. In a way, it reminds me of Des Moines’ Blank Park Zoo: It’s small, but what they have on display is very good.
Take for example the Center’s current exhibition titled “Henry Ossawa Tanner and his Contemporaries.” The small exhibit features four works by the African-American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) — including a fine portrait of Booker T. Washington — plus works by Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Paul Gauguin, and others. Tanner’s Big Web is shown at the right. That show continues through Feb. 27.
Elsewhere in the Center are works of art by Edward Hopper (his wonderful Automat is shown below), Marc Chagall, Picasso, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, and John Singer Sargent. I like them all. Of course, to round out the collection there always seems to be the weird “is this art or did they just forget to clean up the mess?” kinds of installations that you always see in modern art museums whether you’re in Paris, New York, or, apparently, Des Moines. I mean, really…who pays money for a square of canvas painted white? Or how about the one that looks like something I’d do on my living room wall when I was trying to decide between three shades of gray?
The original building opened in 1948. Its first addition on the south side was designed by I.M. Pei and opened in 1968. A later, three-level addition on the north opened in 1985.
An added bonus to your museum experience is a really good-quality restaurant, open for lunch Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s an airy, charming place to dine.
The Des Moines Art Center is located at 4700 Grand Ave., Des Moines.