PHILADELPHIA< PA.- The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
(PAFA) has commissioned world-renowned artist Claes Oldenburg to create a new public artwork for its Lenfest Plaza. The design consists of a 53 foot high sculpture in the form of a paintbrush, raised at a 60 degree angle as if in the act of painting, with a dollop of paint on the ground below. The sculpture is positioned between PAFA's Historic Landmark Building and the Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building. Oldenburg's monumental paintbrush points to the growth and vitality of American art, while celebrating a milestone in the history of the Academy.
"Philadelphia has a distinguished history as a leader in public art, and PAFA is proud to add to that cultural distinction," remarked David R. Brigham, PAFA's President and CEO. "The City is also known for its concentration of artworks by such great artists as Charles Willson Peale, Thomas Eakins, Paul Cezanne, Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp, and with the addition of a third outdoor sculpture by him, Claes Oldenburg. Collecting such important artists in depth helps to set Philadelphia apart as an international cultural destination."
Claes Oldenburg's first large-scale public sculpture was the 45 foot high Clothespin created for Philadelphia in 1976. Since then, working with his partner and wife, the late Coosje van Bruggen, he has placed 45 Large-Scale Projects in the USA, Europe, Japan, and Korea, including another Philadelphia project, the Split Button (1981), on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Like the other sculptures created by the couple, the new commission for PAFA will involve the transformation and enlargement into architectural scale of a common object selected for its relation to a specific site.
Robert Cozzolino, PAFA's Curator of Modern Art said, "Oldenburg's design for PAFA is rich with multiple meanings, as are his most successful public works. His motif of a paintbrush metamorphosing into a torch shows his sensitivity to site - not only to its presence at PAFA but in Philadelphia. Making the paintbrush into a glowing torch makes it a symbol of liberty - artistic and political - which is at the core of an art school, a vibrant art museum, and our city. Oldenburg's thoughtful design has these meanings already, and as it lives its life in Philadelphia it will undoubtedly build on them in ways future generations will come to know."
Unifying PAFA's campus, Lenfest Plaza will stand between the Academy's Historic Landmark and Samuel M.V. Hamilton Buildings. The plaza was designed by internationally renowned landscape architecture firm OLIN, David A. Rubin, OLIN partner, serves as project architect of the Lenfest Plaza. The new civic space will be unveiled in the spring of 2011, offering public outdoor seating and rotating works of emerging and established artistsin an urban setting.