Wexner Center for the Arts
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The Wexner Center for the Arts is The Ohio State University’s multidisciplinary, international laboratory for the exploration and advancement of contemporary art. Through exhibitions, screenings, performances, artist residencies, and educational programs, the Wexner Center acts as a forum where established and emerging artists can test ideas and where diverse audiences can participate in cultural experiences that enhance understanding of the art of our time. In its programs, the Wexner Center balances a commitment to experimentation with a commitment to traditions of innovation and affirms the university’s mission of education, research, and community service. The Wexner Center opened in November 1989, named in honor of the father of Limited Brands founder Leslie Wexner, who was a major donor to the Center.
The Wexner Center is a lab and public gallery, but not a museum, as it does not collect art. However, when the Center was constructed, it replaced the University Gallery of Fine Arts, and assumed possession and stewardship of the University Gallery's permanent collection of roughly 3,000 art works. The collection serves a secondary role in the Center's programs in the visual, media and performing arts. While it is made available to University students and scholars for study, and occasionally drawn upon for exhibitions at the center or elsewhere, it is largely dormant.
The $43 million Wexner Center, commissioned by Ohio State University, was named after the father of Leslie H. Wexner, chairman of Limited Brands, an Ohio native and Ohio State alumnus who pledged $25 million to the project. Peter Eisenman won the design competition for the Wexner in 1983 over four other, more experienced finalists: Cesar Pelli; Michael Graves; Kallmann McKinnell & Wood; and Arthur Erickson. (Each was paired with a local architect.) Progressive Architecture magazine devoted a whole issue to the building even before it was finished; architects like Philip Johnson, Richard Meier and Charles Gwathmey convened in Columbus to mark the building's completion with a public forum on the state of American architecture.
During its three-year renovation between 2002 and 2005, the Wexner relocated its galleries in a former coffin factory two miles away, while the performing arts and film programs continued at the center. It typically drew 200,000 to 250,000 visitors a year before the renovation. In November 2005, the Wexner Center reopened.
The Wexner Center's 108,000-square-foot, three-story building was designed by architects Peter Eisenman of New York and the late Richard Trott of Columbus with landscape architect Laurie Olin of Philadelphia. It was the first major public building to be designed by Eisenman, previously known primarily as a teacher and theorist. He has gone on to design and build a number of other major projects including the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
The design includes a large, white metal grid meant to suggest scaffolding, to give the building a sense of incompleteness in tune with the architect's deconstructivist tastes. Eisenman also took note of the mismatched street grids of the OSU campus and the city of Columbus, which vary by 12.25 degrees, and designed the Wexner Center to alternate which grids it followed. The result was a building of sometimes questionable functionality, but admitted architectural interest. The 12¼-degree angle, and the ubiquitous multiples thereof that occur throughout the building, refers to the divergence between the city planning grid and the campus planning grid. The center’s brick turrets make reference to the medieval-like armory building that occupied the site until the 1958.
Included in the Wexner Center space are a film and video theater, a performance space, a film and video post production studio, a bookstore, café, and 12,000 square feet (1,100 m²) of galleries.
The 2005 renovation originally enlisted the help of a local firm, then switched to Arup. In addition to the building envelope, the scope of renovation includes HVAC, lighting, electrical, plumbing, fire protection systems. The renovation works had a minimum impact on the original architectural design while improving environmental, daylight and climate control. With the restoration of the center as a whole, the bookstore, film and video theater, and café sections were all revamped, equipment and layout-wise.
Wexner Center exhibitions feature the art and ideas of an international array of contemporary artists.
Notable Exhibitions include: Chris Marker: Silent Movie, Julie Taymor: Playing With Fire, Shirin Neshat: Two Installations, Suite Fantastique, As Painting: Division and Displacement, Mood River, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Part Object Part Sculpture, Twice Untitled and Other Pictures (looking back)Louise Lawler, Chris Marker Staring Back, William Wegman: Funney/Strange, Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms, William Forsythe: Transfigurations. In 2002, the Wexner staged "Mood River," one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of industrial and commercial design staged in America, featuring artwork by Simparch, Tony Cragg, E.V. Day, designs by Peter Eisenman, Kivi Sotamaa, and Ben van Berkel, and "products" like the Stealth Bomber, and the Redman Self-Defense Instructor suits.
The Wexner Center's Film/Video department is known for screening films that are new and different, rare and classic, or just too edgy for the multiplex. They have a year-round theater program that includes independent films, international cinema, new documentaries, classics, and experimental film. Many times, films are proceeded by visiting filmmakers discussing their works.
The Film/Video department presents more than 180 films and videos annually in all formats and genres in the Center's Film/Video Theater; hosts visiting filmmakers year-round; operates the Film/Video Studio Program (known as the Art & Technology program until 2010), which is an in-kind residency program that offers production and post-production support to filmmakers and video artists; programs The Box, the Center’s dedicated video exhibition space; and organizes gallery-based exhibitions involving moving image media. The department was given the “Outstanding Organization” Award from NAMAC, the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, in 2002.
The events of the International Performing Arts Series for Families bring innovative live theater to young people and family audiences, as well as performing for school groups throughout the Columbus community.
Creative residency and commissioning projects for artists include: Bill T. Jones, Anne Bogart and the SITI Company, Big Art Group, Ann Hamilton (in collaboration with Meg Stuart and subsequently with Meredith Monk), Improbable Theatre, Bebe Miller, The Builders Association, Akram Khan, Elizabeth Streb, Eiko and Koma, The Wooster Group, Savion Glover, Urban Bush Women, Anthony Davis, Richard Maxwell, da da kamera, Mark Morris, Young Jean Lee's Theater Company, and Kronos Quartet.
The Wexner Prize
The Wexner Prize recognizes an artist whose work reflects exceptional innovation and the highest standards of artistic quality and integrity. Most recently, visionary filmmaker Spike Lee received the Wexner Prize in 2008.
The prize includes a $50,000 award and an engraved commemorative sculpture designed by renowned artist Jim Dine in 1991. Programs at the Wexner Center explore the prize recipient's career and thought.
Past winners include: film and theater director Peter Brook (1992), choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage (1993), artist Bruce Nauman (1994), choreographer and filmmaker Yvonne Rainer (1995), filmmaker Martin Scorsese (1996/97), painter Gerhard Richter (1998), sculptor Louise Bourgeois (1999), artist Robert Rauschenberg (2000), architect Renzo Piano (2001), choreographer William Forsythe (2002), designer Issey Miyake (2004), choreographer Bill T. Jones (2005), and filmmaker Spike Lee (2008).
Residencies at the Wexner Center offer support to artists and often provide opportunities for interaction with the Ohio State community and the public at large. They are an essential part of the Wex's mandate to be a creative research laboratory for all the arts.
Wexner Center Residency Awards are their most substantial and high-profile residencies. They are given annually in the main program areas—performing arts, media arts (film/video), and visual arts—with some projects extending over two or more years.
Other artists participating in exhibitions and performances also may receive commissions and often engage in residency activities—workshops, master classes, and discussion sessions with students or the community—during their time at the center. In addition, each year about 20 visiting filmmakers and video artists from around the world are invited to work in residence in the Film/Video Studio Program.
Wexner Center Residency Award recipients include:
- Young Jean Lee's Theater Company
- The Builders Association
- da da kamera
- Twyla Tharp
- Elizabeth Streb/Ringside
- Mark Morris Dance Group
- The Wooster Group
- Anne Bogart/SITI Company (multiple)
- Improbable (multiple)
- Bill T. Jones
- Ann Carlson
- Amanda Miller/Pretty Ugly Dance Company
- Michael Curry, G.W. Mercier, Donald Holder, Molly Anderson (all collaborators with Julie Taymor)
- William Forsythe,
- Kerry James Marshall
- Zoe Leonard
- Josiah McElheny
- Maya Lin
- Ann Hamilton
- Barbara Kruger
- Lorna Simpson
- Barbara Bloom
- Alexis Smith
- Shirin Neshat
- Lee Mingwei
- Greg Lynn and Fabian Marcaccio
- Hussein Chalayan
- Terry Allen
- Guy Maddin
- Jennifer Reeder
- April Martin
- Yvonne Rainer
- Jennifer Reeves
- Deborah Stratman,
- Phil Collins
- Tom Kalin
- Judith Barry
- Todd Haynes
- Julie Dash
- Isaac Julien,
- Tacita Dean
- Miranda July
- Cheryl Dunn
- Rineke Dijkstra
- Sadie Benning
- William Wegman,
- Sowon Kwon, Steven Bognar
- Helen DeMichiel
- Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle
- Tom Poole
- Robert and Donald Kinney
- Steve Fagin,
- Daniel Minahan
- Chris Marker
- Paper Tiger Television.
In popular media
Normal admission price for the galleries is $8, although students get in free and there are a number of ways to get a discount. Thursday evenings and the first Sunday of every month are free to everyone.
The galleries are open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 AM to 8 PM. The galleries are closed on Mondays and between exhibitions.
- Wexner Center official website
- Building Record of the Wexner Center in the John H. Herrick Archives. Includes statistics, timeline.