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Museum commissions major work by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa
Chloe, 2016, Jaume Plensa (Spanish, born 1955), polyester resin, marble dust, and stainless steel, 24 x 9.2 x 3.5 feet. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund. Object © Jaume Plensa. Photo courtesy and copyright of VMFA.

RICHMOND, VA.- The grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has undergone a bold transformation with the installation of Chloe, a 24-foot tall newly commissioned sculpture, which is visible from both the Boulevard and Grove Avenue in Richmond.

Chloe continues a long series of sculptural heads by world-renowed Spanish artist Jaume Plensa (born 1955) that feature young girls, with closed eyes, whose dream-like qualities transform their surroundings. VMFA commissioned Chloe—composed of polyester resin, marble dust, and a stainless-steel infrastructure—with endowed funds as part of its five-year strategic plan initiative to add new site-specific pieces to the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden. The sculpture has been installed in the garden, adjacent to the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing.

“In today’s increasingly cynical culture, Jaume Plensa operates from a deeply held belief in shared human values,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA Director. “When you view Chloe, you will find a sense of calm and contemplation from any angle of this remarkable sculpture. This is an iconic work that defines the level of ambition we will seek in future commissions. We already are in discussions with another acclaimed sculptor for the next site-specific work, and we will continue to seek out leading national and international artists who will draw on their unique skills to create pieces that reflect our strategic vision for our outdoor collection.”

Although this piece is similar to Plensa’s Echo at the Seattle Art Museum and Laura at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., Chloe is the first of these heads to be cast in one piece on such a large scale. While those previous works feature visible seams where separately cast pieces were stacked on each other, Chloe arrived with a smooth, unbroken surface.

In creating Chloe specifically for the VMFA grounds, Plensa also distorted her profile by compressing its depth. As a result, viewers will experience unexpected shifts in perspectives as they move around the sculpture, and the marble dust coating the surface will reflect light—adding a glittering, otherworldly dimension.

“Beauty is the big connection with all things and with all people, the vast place which contains all our memories. Something we carry anchored in us, an emotion,” said Plensa, when asked about Chloe and its impact on future visitors to VMFA's sculpture garden.

“A sculpture of this magnitude in this outdoor venue offers yet another way for our visitors to engage with contemporary art,” said Dr. Michael Taylor, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education at VMFA. “We were honored to work with Jaume in commissioning Chloe, which we know will become a popular and iconic addition to our sculpture garden.”

In pursuing this commission, VMFA ensured that the sculpture’s proportions complement the scale of the main VMFA museum building. Chloe’s site is centrally located at the end of the walkway leading from the main entrance into the garden. Plensa visited VMFA in September 2014, and a VMFA delegation met with the artist a year later at his Barcelona, Spain, studio to learn about his process and to view a similar sculpture of about half the size of the proposed Chloe.

In advance of the new installation, VMFA moved the Untitled, Mission Clay Pittsburg Project—a glazed ceramic sculpture by Jun Kaneko (American, born Japan, 1965)—from that site to its new location by the main museum entrance.

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