"Des Moines Arts Center - Saarinen Building" Top 5 Page for this destination Des Moines Things to Do Tip by yooperprof

Des Moines Things to Do: 28 reviews and 27 photos

  Iowa is for Art
by yooperprof

The Des Moines Arts Center is highly unusual in that it consists of three separate buildings that nonetheless relate closely to each other, even those they were designed and constructed over a period of 40 years.

The three architects are Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and Richard Meier.

The Saarinen structure is the oldest of the three, dating from the mid 1940s. Saarinen was Finnish, but lived in the United State from the 1920s onward, teaching at the Cranbrook Academy outside Detroit. His design is the most "traditional" of the three - good functional spaces inside, but to me his building looks a lot like an elementary school.

The Des Moines Art Center also is quite well known for the strength of its collection of modern and contemporary art. There are a few pre-20th century pieces - a lovely Mary Cassatt, for example. But it was decided in the 1940s to concentrate almost exclusively upon collecting and displaying "recent" art - and they have some very fine 20th century things here as a result. (Sorry, Stachachach - they don't have any Picasso's here!)

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  • Updated Jul 6, 2004
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