By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 16, 2024 at 1:28 PM

If you’ve been to the Milwaukee Art Museum in recent years, you may have noticed that the museum store, which used to be located between the Baker/Rowland Galleries and the Lubar Auditorium in the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion, moved south to a space in the “prow” of the striking 2001 addition.

Self-described “faithful reader,” Marybeth Gruenewald of Saint Francis certainly noticed. And she had a question.

“I understand the former gift shop was dismantled to make room for a small theatre of sorts. It was always a bonus to visit the shop (and buy gifts, etc) when at the museum,” she wrote.

“The cabinets and display cases in the former gift shop were so unique and frankly, stunning. I had been told years ago that Calatrava had designed those. Do you know if that is true? Do you know what happened to those beautiful wooden frames?”

The display cases were definitely very lovely and perfectly suited to their setting. There were two long curving cases that stood a bit higher than waist level and were arranged in a sort of eye-shape with a space between them for museum store staff.

The cantilevered cases – which rested atop legs that were shaped harmoniously with the building they occupied – were indeed designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava as part of his plan for the striking addition to the museum, which has become an international symbol for the city.

They were made by Swiss company Hobel in Zurich with the final assembly taking place on-site in Milwaukee by a pair of craftsmen from Switzerland.

They were made of beautiful pearwood, with glass tops and steel legs. The cases were illuminated with Tivoli lights, which required the installation of 40 fans to keep the interiors cool.

The problem, it appears, is that the cases may be too large for the new museum store space, but, don’t fret, these treasures were not consigned to the dumpster.

“The museum still has the display cases from the gift shop,” Communications Manager Lindsey Wurz assures. “While the displays are currently off view, the museum plans to incorporate them again.”

There are no further details at the moment about where or how the cases will be used. But let’s hope they’re back soon.

They could make great cases for the display of small works of art, such as jewelry or something similar, and perhaps they’d work nicely in either the Baumgartner Galleria along the lake side of the Quadracci, or the Schroeder Galleria on the west side.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.