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Steven Henry Madoff on the Walker Art Center

WHAT IS THE ROLE of today’s art museum? Is it a storehouse, a place for viewers deep in introspection to stand before works of art, a site of self-discovery? Or is it a place for group interaction, a mall, a social club, an entertainment zone? These are the questions facing the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis this month as it opens its bigger, better, and considerably shinier $67.5 million expansion designed by Herzog & de Meuron, and Kathy Halbreich, the Walker’s director, has answers to give.

Her ideas, along with the broader ramifications on museum practice that the Walker’s new building represents, bear directly on two very real pressures for museums: how best to show their collections and how to keep people coming back to look at them. Those pressures are forcing directional shifts in approach at contemporary institutions as far-flung as the Walker, Tate Modern in London, and the

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