This year’s harsh winter has not been kind to the Milwaukee Art Museum, where floors are buckling, absorbent pads are sopping up moisture next to windows and a space heater is set up next to what used to be the museum’s main entrance on the lake.
Floors were buckling on the upper level of the 1975 Kahler wing, near where similar upheavals of parquet have occurred in past years, near the Bradley Collection of modern art.
Absorbent pads sat sopping wet next to the windows in the Kahler building on Sunday.
Water pooled on some window sills inside the museum.
Previously installed drip pans remain positioned in the ceiling rafters, above treasured works of art, including a prized, Minimalist sculpture by Donald Judd.
This is far from the first time such problems have occurred, though evidence of the weather-related leaking was more visible Sunday.
Major repairs and renovations were put off while the art museum and War Memorial Corp. negotiated a deal over who would control the buildings within the complex, which includes the 1957 Eero Saarinen War Memorial and the 1975 David Kahler addition, both owned by Milwaukee County.
Back in May 2012, the art museum’s director, Dan Keegan, said the leaky buildings and maintenance situation had reached a “tipping point,” putting billions of dollars’ worth of art at risk. He suggested at the time the problems could become structural and more expensive to repair.
At that time, Keegan also announced a plan to erect a modest addition to the east end of the Kahler, one of the leakiest areas of the complex.
The museum also will renovate the Kahler building and enclose an unused, leaky sculpture court as well. Those moves would eliminate most of the leaking, he said at the time.
Such issues can make it difficult for the museum to control temperature levels and humidity rates in the galleries, which can put the art at risk.
This, in turn, could put the museum’s accreditation with the American Association of Museums in jeopardy as well, which would limit the museum’s ability to work with peer institutions.
The museum reached an agreement with the War Memorial in August 2013 that would allow the museum to move forward with its plan for repairs and renovations.
The agreement allows for a decade of support from the county, with the art museum getting $ 1.1 million and the War Memorial $ 486,000 in annual county support.
The repairs and renovations will eliminate the maintenance issues, said Vicki Scharfberg, the museum’s communication director.
That work has to be done at one time, and it wasn’t possible to begin before winter, she added.
The work is scheduled to begin in September 2015 and will take about a year, she said.
“We are being diligent to protect the art, protect the art, protect the art,” she said.
Email Schumacher at firstname.lastname@example.org.