Courtesy Minnesota Vikings
Normally, news that the Minnesota Vikings want to create a “museum-quality art collection” inside their new football cathedral would get me thinking about all the ways such a project could go horribly, entertainingly wrong. If the Walker Art Center got involved, for instance, they might install a row of non-functional, “representational” toilets that ask Vikings fans to question their relationship with beer—and then where would we be?
But this is too important a development to shoot down with cynicism and snark. For far too long, the cultural dialogue in the Twin Cities has revolved around the idea that there are sports people and there are arts people, and never the twain shall meet. (Art note for sports fans: That last phrase is a reference to Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Ballad of East and West,” and is appropriate in this instance because the poem is about war, which as everyone knows, is the basic human instinct sports are intended to sublimate. But you already knew that.)
The arts/sports dichotomy simply isn’t true. We live in a cultural mecca where it is entirely possible for a Vikings fan to go to the symphony, and for a painter to go to a football game. (Though, to be safe, a symphony-goer who attends a Vikings game should consider wearing earplugs.) When such things happen, no laws of man or nature are broken, because we are all human, and both sports and art represent the agony and ecstasy of human achievement. (Again, sports fans, it should be noted that the phrase “agony and ecstasy” refers to Irving Stone’s biographical novel about Michelangelo, not the “agony of defeat” with which Vikings fans are all too familiar.)
Incorporating art into modern stadium designs is all the rage. The Vikings are following in the footsteps of the San Francisco 49ers, whose Levi’s Stadium houses 200 original artworks and more than 500 photographs celebrating the connection between the team and the city. In baseball, the Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins, and New York Yankees all have curated art collections. (Sports fans: The word “curated” here means that a live person consciously picked the art—which, in real art museums, often makes the exhibit choices that much more mystifying.) And at our own Target Field, we have an excellent collection of public art, including a statue of Twins great Kirby Puckett, which cries tears of blood after every game.
So it stands to reason that if the Vikings are going to have a state-of-the-art, 21st-century stadium, they need to include art about the state and its relationship to the Vikings franchise. That would mean remembering the team’s greatest players and coaches, of course, and including homages to the most glorious moments in Vikings history.
But if the Wilfs want fans to take an active interest in the art, the work itself should embrace more ambitious themes. An entire wing devoted to “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” would be nice, as would a long Hall of Shame with a revolving door at the end for Adrian Peterson. A statue of Brett Favre that’s half hero, half goat would say it all, of course, and an installation that encourages people to paint themselves in purple and gold could provide a welcome interactive element. (Sports fans: The word “interactive,” in the art world, means anything that moves.)
As you read this, a committee full of arty, sporty people is considering artist proposals of all kinds and making its final recommendations. The art will then be commissioned and, eventually, installed somewhere in the new stadium. Vikings spokesperson Jeff Anderson says “nothing is being ruled out,” but I hope that isn’t true. There are certain things at the new Vikings stadium that I want to be sure are not part of a modern art project. I’m more of an arts guy than a sports guy, but after a few beers the distinctions disappear. In line at the bathroom, we are all just human beings—and if those toilets aren’t real, we’ll all be in agony.