Plains Art Museum to Acquire Rosenquist’s The North Dakota Mural

The Plains Art Museum in Fargo, N.D. will acquire James Rosenquist’s The North Dakota Mural, a major new work 13 feet high and 24 feet wide. The donor’s contribution of $600,000 will be matched with an equal donation from the artist for the commissioned mural.

Rosenquist is considered one of the founders of the Pop art movement and one of the most important artists of his generation. The mural is the second one that he painted as The North Dakota Mural. The first mural, completed in January 2009, burned in a brush fire that consumed his Aripeka, Fla., home and studio last April. He lost dozens of artworks and his personal possessions in the fire. The fate of the mural hung in limbo before the donor stepped forward.

“The first time I made the piece, it was fantastic, marvelous,” Rosenquist said, “and then it burned up. I had nothing, not even a brush, not even a rag. So, I assembled a new studio from the ground up and got back to work on the mural. I worked steadily on it and it’s a zinger. Even better than the first one.”

Colleen Sheehy, Director and CEO of the Museum, expressed gratitude to the donor “who turned this tragic situation into a positive one for Jim, the Museum, and our community.”

“This is like a phoenix rising from the ashes, thanks to the generosity of both our donor and Jim Rosenquist,” Sheehy said.

The acquisition of the piece completes a major component of the Museum’s There’s a Little Artist in All of Us campaign. Other campaign elements include the Center for Creativity and Lifelong Learning, an arts education facility adjoining the Museum, and the Fingerprints Gallery, an interactive arts education experience within the Museum itself.

Rosenquist was born in Grand Forks, N.D., in 1933. He attended the Minneapolis School of Art and the University of Minnesota before moving to New York City in 1955. He painted large billboards and carried over the images and techniques gleaned from that experience into his artwork, depicting subjects from advertising and popular culture.

His breakout work, F-111, was completed in 1965. Since then, his fame has continued to increase and his art has become part of collections at major national and international museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery of Art, Tate Gallery (London) and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (Spain).

The North Dakota Mural reflects a number of thematic images relating to the state of North Dakota including a meadowlark, a northern pike, a cow’s skull, a Native American tepee frame and the state seal, with a dome of stars and galaxies hanging overhead. The style is characteristic of Rosenquist’s work, with images at various scales, and a combination of realism with a surreal use of picture space.

Rosenquist said that the perspective granted by the landscape of the Red River Valley, plus an inventive spirit learned from his parents and grandfather, served as his inspiration.

“It’s like standing on a dome,” he said. “It’s a flat, flat place. Flat places have always been places that developed aviation, and that’s how my parents met. They were both aviators.”

Sheehy sees the mural acting as a focal point for many in the community, the state and elsewhere.

“The North Dakota Mural will inspire generations of school kids and other viewers,” Sheehy said. “There’s the fact that it is painted by James Rosenquist, who grew up in North Dakota and Minnesota and went on to become one of the most important artists of our time. Then there’s the power of its images and composition, which I would describe as ‘cosmic.’ I look forward to endless conversations about this major new artwork for Fargo—and the world.”

The mural will hang permanently in the Ruth and Seymour Landfield Atrium at the Museum. An unveiling ceremony is planned for early October.

Plains Art Museum 704 First Avenue North • Fargo, North Dakota 58102 Phone: 701.232.3821 • Fax: 701.293.1082