If you've passed Northwestern Mutual
's downtown Milwaukee headquarters in the past three years, you may have spotted a 37-foot-tall stainless steel tree standing out among the gardens in front of the office tower. The artwork has been on display since 2019 as part of Sculpture Milwaukee
's annual streetside exhibition, and now, it's there to stay.
The Milwaukee-based financial services company this week announced it has acquired the piece, which is entitled "Cleft," by American painter and sculptor Roxy Paine.
Paine’s art focuses on the impact modern technologies have on nature. "Cleft" is part of his 2018 "Dendroid" series and is one of the only pieces the artist has created for himself, according to a news release. Later this year, the tree will be transplanted from its current spot - facing North Prospect Avenue's curve into East Wisconsin Avenue - to what will be its permanent location within the Northwestern Mutual Gardens.
"We are deeply grateful for the support of Northwestern Mutual, which has been our strongest partner since the inception of Sculpture Milwaukee," said Wayne Morgan, board chairman of Sculpture Milwaukee. "We are thrilled 'Cleft' will permanently remain on Northwestern Mutual’s campus for all who visit and live in downtown to enjoy."
Later this month, "Cleft" will be joined by another nature-centric piece with the launch of Sculpture Milwaukee’s 2022-23 season. "Pyramid," which was inspired by the Northwestern Mutual Gardens and the surrounding ecosystem, will be assembled on site by artist Maren Hassinger and students from the UW-Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts. The sculpture will be built with sustainable, locally-sourced materials gathered in partnership with Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps
, according to the release.
Sculpture Milwaukee’s sixth annual exhibition, dubbed "Nature Doesn’t Know About Us," runs July 30, 2022, through October 31, 2023. Northwestern Mutual returns as the presenting sponsor for the fifth consecutive year.
Sculpture Milwaukee first launched in 2017 as the brainchild of Steve Marcus, chairman of the Marcus Corp. In 2019, it incorporated as its own nonprofit organization
. Despite many summer activities in the city being canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020, Sculpture Milwaukee expanded its exhibition from Wisconsin Avenue to the Historic Third Ward. Sculpture Milwaukee's installation is privately funded and free to the public.
"Sculpture Milwaukee shares Northwestern Mutual’s belief that we can build stronger communities by leveraging the power of art to create connections and inspire imagination," said Steve Radke, president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. "Milwaukee is home to a thriving arts environment, and bringing these unique pieces to our city will create more opportunities to spark meaningful conversations within the community."
Northwestern Mutual's latest art acquisition follows a decades-long history of collecting original museum-quality fine artwork and leveraging it to enrich its physical and cultural environment, while supporting local creative communities, the company said.
Today, the Northwestern Mutual art collection includes a spectrum of contemporary artwork by noted diverse artists who are also educators, mentors, innovators and leaders. The collection of artwork, which includes paintings and prints, textiles, sculptures, glass, digital, assemblage and more, is on display throughout Northwestern Mutual’s Milwaukee, Franklin, and New York City campuses.