MINNEAPOLIS — The wooden remnants of “Scaffold,” the gallows-like sculpture that created so much controversy at the Walker Art Center this summer, will soon be buried in symbolic fashion. But the museum, one of the nation’s top contemporary art institutions, is still reckoning with the fallout and with questions about decision making.
The Walker’s board has hired a law firm to review its handling of “Scaffold,” by the artist Sam Durant, which evoked the macabre settings of seven executions — including the hanging of 38 Dakota Indian men in Minnesota after the United States-Dakota war in 1862.
Some Native American leaders who denounced “Scaffold” as offensive — which ultimately led to its demolition — are still troubled that the museum displayed the sculpture on former Dakota land, and that it also imported an exhibition this summer by Jimmie Durham, a celebrated artist whose past self-identification as Cherokee has drawn criticism from leaders of the Cherokee tribe.
Separately, over the past year, two dozen staff members have departed the museum, out of a total work force of just under 120. Interviews with several former employees reveal a mix of factors behind the staff changes, including practical reasons like reaching retirement age. But others described an environment of long hours and high expectations under the museum’s executive director, Olga Viso, and a few said that Ms. Viso was not always open to criticism or warnings — including over “Scaffold.” Most spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal affairs and conversations at the Walker.