Art the security guard stands at the entrance of the under-construction Cafesjian Art Trust Museum in Shoreview – the future home to 3,000 contemporary artworks with a focus on glass art.
Drywall scraps cover the floor, and foaming pink fiberglass insulation drips from the ceiling. Art wears a loose-fitting blue shirt and holds a piece of paper in his left hand, but he does not respond to passersby.
“He confuses the FedEx people regularly,” said Andy Schlauch, executive director of the Cafesjian Art Trust (CAT) Museum.
“They do not know why he is not answering the door,” added CAT trustee Kathie Cafesjian Baradaran.
Art isn’t a person but a creation of Milwaukee-based hyperrealist sculptor Marc Sijan and resembles a lifelike security guard. He also likely will be visitors’ first encounter at the new 20,000-square-foot museum set to open in mid-September at 4600 Churchill St. in Shoreview.
The space includes a permanent installation of “Pergola Ceiling,” a cacophony of light, color and form created by glass artist Dale Chihuly, who visitors will recognize from his squiggly, bright yellow hanging glass work “Sunburst” at Mia. The museum will also have a library, reading room, research center, event space and mini outdoor sculpture garden.
CAT’s holdings are all from the personal collection of the late Gerard Cafesjian, a renowned art collector and former West Publishing Co. executive and shareholder who made millions when the company was sold in 1996.
“The collection is mostly what Dad liked,” said his daughter Baradaran, the sole trustee of the estate.
The collection, some 3,000 items strong, includes 46 works by Chihuly, 103 works by the duo of painter / glass artist Stanislav Libenský and sculptor Jaroslava Brychtová and 20 works by French Cubist artist Georges Braque.
Rather than donate the collection to a single institution, build a wing onto an existing museum or loan out the works, Baradaran chose to open a new museum.
“One of our goals is going to be education about studio art glass, education about contemporary art, which still eludes a lot of people, even though it has been around for awhile,” Baradaran said.
CAT Museum will have about six employees, including Schlauch, who has worked with Chihuly since 2008. For the past eight years, he was executive director of the Chihuly collection at the Morean Arts Center in St. Louis. Petersburg, Fla. The first two major exhibitions at CAT will focus on Chihuly.
Baradaran was born in New York and moved to Minnesota in 1960 when her father transferred to West Publishing’s home office in St. Louis. Paul. She already runs the Cafesjian Center of the Arts in Yerevan, Armenia, that her father founded in 2009.
After retiring from West Publishing, Cafesjian devoted much of his time, energy and wealth to helping Armenia. His parents were 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 donation of $ 600,000 for repairs to Cafesjian’s Carousel in Como Park, he also founded the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona and was the owner of the Armenian Reporter, the oldest independent Armenian-American publication. Cafesjian died in 2013, and the following year a major lawsuit was settled against his close associate John Waters, who embezzled $ 4 million from him.
The museum will also collect oral histories from the artists, especially those from the studio glass movement, and hopes to make glass art more accessible to the public.
Having all his favorite art in one place seems like what Cafesjian would have most wanted.
“He grew up in New York during the Depression, and he, as a kid, could go to the Met for free – and he wanted to live there, in the Met, and so he was always drawn to this,” Baradaran said. “He had broad tastes, but he loved modern art and he loved studio art glass and he loved color and had kind of a sense of humor, too. … He liked whimsical things.”