Des Moines Art Center Museum: Des Moines, IA 11 March 2018

On Sunday afternoon Sue, Todd, and I visited the Des Moines Art Center Museum next to Greenwood/Ashworth Park. Admission is free. There are three buildings (wings), each designed by a prominent architect. The Eliel Saarinen Building was built in 1948, the IM Pei Building in 1968, and the Richard Meier in 1985.

Before the museum, we enjoyed another wonderful meal. This time it was brunch at Bubba, a Southern-style restaurant. I had an Orange Blossom to drink and had one of the best omelets I’ve ever had – a Creole omelet with Andouille sausage, peppers, onions, and pepper jack cheese topped with crawfish cream and I had apple cinnamon silver dollar buckwheat pancakes on the side.

Sue pointed out the tile on the floor. There is a Japanese art of using liquid gold to piece back together broken ceramics and a Japanese artist had done the same for the tile, so the floor had become an art piece in the museum.

We got there just as a tour by the assistant curator, Jared Ledesma, of the sculptures and other pieces in the IM Pei building was about to start. The space is wide open and made for sculptures. The wing was built in the 1960s because contemporary artists were creating huge works. Ledesma had a lot of choices from the museum’s collection of what to put in there and although it looks like it was carefully curated because the pieces fit together and speak to each other, he said he just choose the pieces he liked and thought would look good in the space.

Before the tour, I got on line in George Segal’s “To All Gates.”



Most of the artists Ledesma chose are still living. The first three pieces have a similar color palette.

Florence Kathryn Kawa “Mesa,” Rachel Whiteread “Untitled (Plinth)” and El Anatsui “Basin”



“Untitled (Plinth)” is a rubber mold, which is why it looks like a giant eraser. Whiteread also did a rubber mold of the inside of a Victorian home before it was demolished. “Basin,” because of the netting, can be hung in various ways, so it should be different every time it is displayed. It now has a 3D effect because when he originally hung it, it looked like the US. The netting is made from the paper from liquor bottles – what the West brought to Africa.


Petah Coyne “Untitled #759 (Japanese Wreath)” The melted wax over structured steel represents a feminine outside with a strong inside.



Roy Lichtenstein “The Great Pyramid” across the way upstairs in the IM Pei Building.


Robert Smithson “Terminal,” which is painted steel.


I noticed that the museum guards were dressed in street clothes. It was not until I saw the earpieces and walkie-talkies clipped to their shirts that I realized that they were not just museum visitors.

One of the current exhibitions is Wanderlust: Actions, Traces, Journeys 1967-2017, which is mostly performance art that has been videotaped or photographed. Efrat Natan walks around Tel Aviv with a hollow T-shaped box on her head while always photographed from above. Vito Acconci (father of performance and video art), for almost every day in October 1969, chose someone to follow until they entered somewhere he could not. Marie Lorenz’ “Gyre” (porcelain and string) hangs down for three floors and is made from molds of the objects she had collected over the past ten years. On boats, she navigates channels, canals, and rivers surrounding New York City, using tidal currents as a guide.




There’s art outside every window.

Lewis de Soto “Shadow” is anthracite coal.



Henry Moore “Three Way Piece No. 1: Points”


Bruce Nauman “Animal Pyramid” is site specific.



Other pieces in the museum:

Fred Wilson “Iago’s Mirror:



Dan Flavin “Untitled (For Ellen)”


Louise Bourgeois “The Blind Leading the Blind:


Teresa Margolies “Escombro (Debris)” is 18-karat gold and a shard of wood from a house destroyed by the Sichuan 2008 earthquake.


Lee Bontecou “Untitled” is welded and painted steel, and soot.


Nick Cave “Rescue” I was taken aback at first because I didn’t know Nick Cave was also a visual artist. I saw the born in 1959 and asked Sue to look him up. The singer was born in 1957 and then I saw that the artist is American. But I was confused for a bit. The piece delighted me because it is what I imagine being a rescue feels like – surrounded by this fantasy of love and light and being allowed on the sofa.



Steven Young Lee “Maebyeong Vase with Mushrooom Vine”


Ai Wei Wei “Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds)” This are not real seeds – each is made of porcelain and there 100 million of them each individually handmade and handpainted by 1600 Chinese artisans.



Josiah McElheny “Museum Storage: Please Do Not Remove the Labels”




Mark Rothko “Light Over Gray” (taken from the internet)


Francis Bacon “Study After Velásquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X” (taken from internet)


Andy Warhol “Diamond Dust Martha Graham” (taken from internet) At first I mistook Graham for Kitty Carlisle.


Cindy Sherman “Untitled #218” (taken from the internet)


There were more videos in closed off rooms. And photographs that all told different interesting stories.

Carmen Papalia “On Accessing the Des Moines Art Center, January 2018” is a poem printed on large paper (and you can take a copy with you) of Ledesma recording himself describing his surroundings and movements while walking around the museum. Papalia is blind and the poem is a meld of Ledesma’s words and the impression his words gave the artist.




And there is much much more to see and experience by artists well-known and others not as well-known. It is a fantastic museum and well worth your time if you are in Des Moines.

By Carene Lydia Lopez