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Banished MN Capitol painting gets new life

Removed from the Minnesota Capitol, "Attack on New Ulm" by Anton Gag, will hang temporarily at the James J. Hill House. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

A painting deemed too controversial for the Minnesota Capitol will have a new, temporary home beginning next month in another historic building.

The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) announced Monday that the 1904 painting “Attack on New Ulm” by Anton Gag will be part of a new exhibit opening Sept. 16, at the James J. Hill House art gallery. The exhibit is scheduled to run through Jan. 14, 2018.

The painting of a scene from the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 hung inside the Capitol since 1923. But amid concerns about the painting’s depiction of Native Americans, the MNHS executive council voted last December for its removal.

Two other paintings criticized for inaccurate depictions of Native Americans were removed from the Governor’s Reception room and relocated to the third floor of the Capitol with additional historical context and contemporary commentary from Ojibwe and Dakota community members, historians, Western art experts, and settler descendants.

Jennifer Jones, MNHS senior director of collections and research services, said “Attack on New Ulm” will have a similar format.

“It was done at an earlier time, and people have different perspectives on it today than they did 100, 110 years ago,” Jones said.

A news release announcing the new exhibit said the painting “represents a single painful moment in the complex story” of the war.

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