One of Milwaukee’s great public art success stories has been Sculpture Milwaukee. For the past two years, the outdoor art exhibition has peppered more than 20 wonderful, challenging, and sometimes bizarre pieces along Wisconsin Avenue. We ranked them in 2017, and then again in 2018. And you better believe we’re gonna rank them in 2019, because Sculpture Milwaukee is back—this time with a giant penguin.

Yes, from June 7 through October 27, 2019, 22 new pieces will activate the hell out of Wisconsin Avenue. Among those pieces will be John Baldessari’s “comical self-portrait,” Penguin, which will patrol the Northwestern Mutual Gardens all summer long. Here’s what it looks like:

And here’s the full press release. There’s a bunch of other great stuff in this year’s collection, but seriously. That penguin. Installation begins in May.

Sculpture Milwaukee Announces Exciting Third Season Offerings
Radcliffe Bailey, John Baldessari, Elmgreen & Dragset, Roxy Paine, Beverly Pepper, and Richard Woods among confirmed list of artists; Installation to begin in May

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (April 9, 2019)—Sculpture Milwaukee, the city’s annual outdoor art exhibition, welcomes 22 artworks to Wisconsin Avenue from June 7 to Oct. 27, 2019. The first slate of renowned artists confirmed to date include Atlanta artist Radcliffe Bailey, California artist John Baldessari, Berlin-based Elmgreen & Dragset, New York artist Roxy Paine, American artist and resident of Italy, Beverly Pepper, and London-based Richard Woods.

“We are thrilled to bring these spectacular works by remarkable artists to downtown Milwaukee,” said Sculpture Milwaukee’s Co-Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Programs, Marilu Knode. “Every piece has a story to tell. There’s John Baldessari, one of the most important American artists of the post-war period, and Beverly Pepper, the first artist to use Cor-Ten steel, who is still actively creating at 96 years young. Looking at the exhibition as a whole, the works use different combinations of abstraction and figuration to express the ideas of the artists.”

Each year, Sculpture Milwaukee sparks the imagination and adds to the vibrancy of downtown by bringing a new selection of world-renowned artworks for all to enjoy along Wisconsin Avenue from 5th Street east to O’Donnell Park. As in previous years, Sculpture Milwaukee is curated by Knode and Russell Bowman, art advisor and former director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Knode is the former director of Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis.

Renewing its pledge as the exhibition’s presenting sponsor, Northwestern Mutual will host John Baldessari’s comical self-portrait Penguin, 2018, and Roxy Paine’s Cleft, from the series Dendrites, 2018, in the stunning, three-acre Northwestern Mutual Gardens at the eastern end of Wisconsin Avenue.

“Northwestern Mutual is excited to support an event that has become so much fun for Milwaukee art lovers and families alike who enjoy taking in a wide variety of artwork. There’s so much to enjoy and be inspired by – both on the serious and playful side – and it’s wonderful seeing the vibrancy of our downtown cultural scene,” said Eric Christophersen, president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation and vice president of campus operations.

The additional works to be sited along Wisconsin Avenue include Radcliffe Bailey’s Pensive, 2013, invoking African American activist W.E.B. Du Bois in the position of Rodin’s iconic work The Thinker; Elmgreen & Dragset’s meditation on vision, A Greater Perspective, 2015; Beverly Pepper’s curved, muscular sculpture, Curvae in Curvae, 2012; and Richard Woods’ cheery, colorful house, Untitled (Milwaukee), 2019.

According to Stephen Marcus, Sculpture Milwaukee board chair and founder, “Now in its third year, Sculpture Milwaukee has truly transformed downtown in the summertime with its lively, urban art exhibition, accessible to all. As a result of recent events, the eyes of the nation and the world are on Milwaukee, and thanks to the support of our donors and Milwaukee businesses, Sculpture Milwaukee helps propel our image as a world-class and visionary city onto a global stage.”

The exhibition’s remaining artists and sculptures will be announced in the coming weeks. Installation of the sculptures, including a specially commissioned work by a local artist, and the largest work in Sculpture Milwaukee’s history, will begin in May. All of the 22 artworks are available for purchase with a percentage of each sale going toward Sculpture Milwaukee’s future installations. Additional information on Sculpture Milwaukee 2019 can be found at

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Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.