A second Oldenburg is coming, The Academy of the Fine Arts commissions work from the sculptor of the "Clothespin."
June 29, 2010 | By Stephan Salisbury, Inquirer Culture Writer
Claes Oldenburg, the 81-year-old sculptor whose iconic Clothespin, installed in 1976, changed the face of 15th and Market Streets and the direction of Philadelphia public art, has been selected to create another work for an area north of City Hall.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has announced that a new Oldenburg will rise over what the academy has dubbed Lenfest Plaza, a new space carved out of closed-off Cherry Street between Broad and 15th Streets.
The plaza will serve to link the academy’s two major buildings - the ornate Frank Furness-designed museum on the south side of Cherry Street, and the straitlaced Hamilton Building of gallery, administrative and studio spaces on the north side.
Academy president David Brigham declined Monday to offer details about the piece beyond saying that it will be “site specific.” Oldenburg, he added, will be on hand at a July 8 event to unveil his concept and discuss what kind of work he has in mind.
The academy has high hopes for its plan to convert a few hundred feet of Cherry Street into a promenade, restaurant area, sculpture garden, and defining urban space. The $3 million project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2011, Brigham said.
Academy officials believe the plaza not only will tie the school’s buildings together but also could serve to draw Convention Center visitors when the expanded facility opens directly across Broad Street at roughly the same time. Those visitors could then be enticed to head farther west toward the cultural institutions along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where the new Barnes Foundation gallery is expected to open in 2012.
Oldenburg, whose whimsical 45-foot-high Clothespin redefined the public space at 15th and Market Streets when it was unveiled 34 years ago, is best known for his monumental treatments of everyday objects.
The University of Pennsylvania sports his giant Split Button, 16 feet wide, installed in 1981.
Clothespin, which echoes City Hall’s fanciful tower in a monumental revisioning of an everyday object, drew mixed response when it was erected at the Centre Square office tower by developer Jack Wolgin.
But over time it served to redefine the public space in an area emerging as a new office corridor. William H. Whyte, urban observer, people watcher and author of The Organization Man, once said, looking at Clothespin, “You know where you are here. No other place you could be!”