The art guard stands at the entrance to the Cafesjian Art Trust Museum under construction in Shoreview, the future home of 3,000 contemporary works of art with a focus on glass art.
The remnants of plasterboard cover the floor, and foamy pink fiberglass insulation drips from the ceiling. Art wears a wide blue shirt and holds a sheet of paper in his left hand, but does not suit passers-by.
“He regularly confuses FedEx people,” said Andy Schlauch, executive director of the Cafesjian Art Trust (CAT) museum.
“They don’t know why he doesn’t open the door,” added CAT trustee Kati Kafesjian Baradaran.
Art is not human, but the work of Milwaukee-based hyperrealist sculptor Mark Sigan, and he looks like a realistic bodyguard. It will also likely be the first meeting of visitors to the new 20,000-square-foot museum, which is due to open in mid-September at 4,600 Churchill St. in Shore.
The space includes a permanent installation of “Pergola Ceiling”, a cacophony of light, color and shape created by glass artist Dale Chihuly, whom visitors will recognize by his meandering, bright yellow hanging glass work “Sunburst” in Mia. The museum will also have a library, reading room, research center, event space and a mini garden with outdoor sculptures.
All of CAT’s assets are from the personal collection of the late Gerard Kafesjian, a renowned art collector and former CEO and shareholder of West Publishing Co., which made millions when the company was sold in 1996.
“The collection is mostly what Dad liked,” said his daughter Baradaran, the manor’s only trustee.
The collection, consisting of about 3,000 items, includes 46 works by Chihuli, 103 works by the duo artist / glass artist Stanislav Libenski and sculptor Yaroslava Brichtova, and 20 works by French cubist artist Georges Braque.
Instead of donating the collection to a single institution, building a wing on an existing museum or lending the works, Baradaran chose to open a new museum.
“One of our goals will be education for studio art glass, education for contemporary art, which still eludes many people, even though it has existed for some time,” Baradaran said.
The CAT Museum will have about six employees, including Schlauch, who has worked with Chihuly since 2008. For the past eight years, he has been the executive director of the Chihuly collection at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. The first two major exhibitions at CAT will focus on Chihuahuas.
Born in New York, Baradaran moved to Minnesota in 1960 when her father moved to West Publishing’s home office in St. Paul. She already runs the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan, Armenia, which her father founded in 2009.
After retiring from West Publishing, Cafesjian devoted much of his time, energy and wealth to helping Armenia. His parents are Armenian immigrants who left what was then Constantinople in 1912, three years before the Armenian Genocide. He grew up in Brooklyn, frequently visiting Coney Island and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Known locally for his $ 600,000 donation to repair Cafesjian’s carousel in Como Park, he also founded the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona and owns Armenian Reporter, the oldest independent Armenian-American publication. Cafesjian died in 2013, and the following year a major lawsuit was filed against his close associate John Waters, who embezzled $ 4 million from him.
The museum will also collect oral stories from artists, especially those from the studio glass movement, and hopes to make glass art more accessible to the public.
Having all your favorite art in one place seems like what Cafesjian would like most.
“He grew up in New York during the Depression and as a child he could go to the Metro for free – and he wanted to live there, in the Metro, so he was always attracted to it,” Baradaran said. “He had wide tastes, but he loved modern art and he loved studio art glass, he loved colors and he had a sense of humor. … He liked strange things.