Tony Bodensteiner



I was elated when the announcement was made that a new museum of art had been approved and the location announced. A lot of my art friends seemed disappointed, and I was a bit confused why. Sure, it would be great if we had a hundred million dollars to spend on an extravagant building (like the Weisman in Minneapolis or the Nelson Atkins in Kansas City), but realistically it isn’t the building that makes a great museum. We have proved that time and again over the past decade with the programs and exhibits we have taken part in, both in Iowa and the world. The old UIMA was a fantastic museum, not because of the Brutalist box that housed it (the most interesting part of that building was the sculpture court with the sunburst oculus and the view of the river that would eventually be its undoing), but the art within the four walls. I remember the first major exhibit I saw there was Louise Nevelson’s “The Fourth Dimension” (1980). I was enthralled. I regret to this day that I did not get to meet Madame Nevelson in person, but c’est la vie.

It was after this that I changed my major, for a third time, to art.

Another once-in-a-lifetime experience was Robert Wilson’s “Voom” portraits (2008). I have a difficult time putting into words how transformative that experience was for me, having every room and gallery devoted to those engaging, arresting, captivating, enchanting, bewitching portraits (a thesaurus helps!).

I actually wept when I saw the Pollock in Sioux City (another fabulous facility and collection). I miss spending Sunday afternoons just wandering around looking at artworks that I have become so familiar with that they almost seem like they are part of me. The anticipation of having not only our collection back but also the possibility of being able to host travelling exhibits is palpable for me, and I get a bit emotional whenever I think about how wonderful our new museum will be.