When Scott Paulson welcomes visitors to Museum Louvre It or Leave It on Valley View Road, they will likely imagine that they’ve just stepped into an art gallery in Paris or Beverly Hills. The new-to-Eden Prairie showcase may be the metro region’s smallest, open-to-the-public museum, but it provides a visual adventure.
To note: An assembly of discarded metallic junk named “Echo” is the haunting sculpture of a fallen horse. It was welded together from scrap by Deborah Butterfield, an internationally acclaimed sculptor from Bozeman, Mont. “Dancing in the Dark” by artist and Arizona State University Professor Earl Linderman evokes a jazz age Parisian cabaret.
“Earl,” by ceramic artist Gina Fowler, sparks smiles with his lunch bucket from the top of a kitchenette refrigerator just as he had in a lofty executive’s office. A large photograph of “Earl” once shared stage time with improv actors at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater on Lake Street.
Museum Louvre It or Leave It features the art collection of philanthropists Gary and JoAnn Fink, which is owned by their private, nonprofit foundation, the Phynk Phamily Phoundation (Yes! This is the correct spelling.)
“The museum reflects a very eclectic inventory,” states JoAnn on the gallery’s website. “We buy work that makes our hearts sing.”
Scott Paulson, a retired investment analyst, has worked with Gary Fink for 27 years. He says that the multi-media exhibit was formed during a half-century of Fink business and vacation trips.
As a young man, Gary Fink had set the all-time record for selling Prudential Life Insurance. He subsequently formed his own company and then helped build MCG Healthcare into a leading consultancy for hospitals, clinics, HMOs and health care networks.
This all demanded lots of travel. Gary and JoAnn’s muse led them to galleries and art colonies wherever they went.
“If it (art) moved him, that’s what he had to have,” said Paulson, who serves as the museum’s director, curator and guide and is, it seems, a multi-tasking confidant of the Finks.
The Museum Louvre It or Leave It first opened in the NorthStar Center East in 2004. The busy downtown complex helped the skyway level museum become a magnet of sorts for downtowners, art chats, school groups, and touring culture vultures with kids in tow.
The latter, Paulson recalls, might visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Weisman Art Museum with a quick stop at Louvre. “They’d let their kids run in the skyways to have lunch. So, we’d be a lunchtime stop. Not what I would have done, but.”
The museum’s move this year to Eden Prairie was prompted by the pandemic and safety concerns. During the Aug. 26, 2020, downtown looting spree, the museum suffered an estimated $20,000 in damage. Although none of its major exhibits were harmed, the decision to move was made.
Space for a new gallery at the Lakeview Business Center on Lake Smetana was available. Sun Current Newspapers, a major tenant of the center, was reducing staff, footprint and rent.
Because the smaller, 2,500-square-foot site could not accommodate all of the collection, portions of it were gifted by the Phynk Phamily Phoundation to various other nonprofits.
The Weisman, The Minnesota African American Heritage Museum, the Minnesota Zen Center, the Children’s Home Society in the Twin Cities, and The Getty Museum in Los Angeles accepted works that serve their respective missions.
During two November visits to the Eden Prairie museum, this writer surveyed a gallery appointed with surprise after surprise; not gimmicky or kitschy art, but serious art with nuance, irony and humor.
Scott Paulson’s relaxed manner was an affable counterpoint to the museum’s dramatic, emotive, satirical, weird and tongue-in-cheek vibes generated by the likes of cardboard, steel and paper mache sculptures, miniature this-and-thats and full-blown paintings.
Edina painter Megan Rye’s quintet of oil-on-canvass paintings are based on Fink Family photographs. Gary is the mustachioed guy in the two center paintings. He shares the top one with the Marx Brothers and the kind of premium, hand-rolled cigar that young, highly successful agency captains and Groucho prefer.
Art maven Martin Weinstein noted in Gary Fink’s 2012 autobiography, The Power of Positive Phynque-ing, that the collection’s beauty also brings viewers a social message. “Their attraction,” he writes, “is undeniably to (art) work that has something to say.”
Why the move to Eden Prairie?
Paulson explains that because he lives in Chanhassen and former Lake of the Isles residents Gary and JoAnn now live in Minnetonka, Eden Prairie was the logical in-between location for the collection.
Museum Louvre It or Leave it
Address: 10915 Valley View Road, Eden Prairie
Call for hours or appointment: (612) 337-1041
EPLN anticipates that initial visits will range from 15 to 50 minutes.
Editor Note: Writer Jeff Strate is also a board member of Eden Prairie Local News. Unless noted, all photographs in this article were taken by him.