New Public Outdoor Sculpture by Henry Moore…Coming Soon!

image-correctedcroppedColumbia University is honored to be the recipient of a significant donation of a public outdoor sculpture by Henry Moore (1898-1986), one of the most important British sculptors of the twentieth century. Preparation for the installation of Reclining Figure, which measures approximately 9 x 11 x 7 feet and is cast in bronze, will begin this week at the Morningside Campus on the central lawn near the entrance to Butler Library. The donation of this sculpture was accepted by the Committee on Art Properties and University administration over twenty years ago, with the permanent location approved more recently. The photograph seen above was taken in 2014 and shows the sculpture in its pre-conservation state. The donors, David and Laura Finn, were long-time friends of the sculptor. Mr. Finn is a fine-art photographer who has published numerous books on photographing sculpture, and is a co-founder of Ruder Finn Inc., the public relations agency. The Finns’ children are alumni of Columbia.

Early in his career, Henry Moore embraced abstraction through sculptural forms, but his works consistently call to mind figurative subjects. Columbia’s newest public outdoor sculpture, Reclining Figure, is meant to suggest the form of a woman with her legs outstretched before her, propping herself up with her forearm. This work was designed by Moore from 1969 to 1970 and subsequently cast in bronze by Hermann Noack in Berlin. Columbia’s cast is number 5 of 6, with repetitions of this important work on display in cities such as Hakone, Japan; Humlebaek, Denmark; and Tel Aviv, Israel.

Once installed onOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA campus, this sculpture will make Columbia only the second university in the United States, after M.I.T., to have on permanent display two public outdoor sculptures by Moore. Columbia’s other Moore sculpture, Three-Way Piece, No. 1: Points, located on Revson Plaza, was donated in 1967 by Miriam and Ira D. Wallach.

 

UPDATE (November 17, 2016): Following many months of discussion, University Administration, with the support of the donors, decided to change the location of this sculpture to the lawn just south of Havemeyer and east of Mathematics, where it will better harmonize with the natural environment, situated between two trees. The concrete base is now in place, and we are looking forward to installing and showcasing this remarkable sculpture by Moore in the coming weeks.

Meadmore’s Curl…Conservation Complete

curl_20151219Anyone walking past Uris Hall these days will now notice that Clement Meadmore’s sculpture The Curl is looking better than ever, or at least better than it has for the past 15+ years. Seeing it in its newly-conserved state, the viewer can appreciate fully Meadmore’s intent of using the painted surface of the sculpture to create a sleek, sinuous form that belies the weight and hard materiality of its Cor-Ten structure. Although rust is a natural part of the appeal of Cor-Ten steel, environmental conditions led to the erosion of the steel in some parts and an adverse reaction with the paint. After nearly three months of conservation work spearheaded by Conservation Solutions, Inc.–to whom we owe our thanks for all their hard work–we are now pleased to showcase Meadmore’s masterpiece in its newly-conserved state. Upon seeing the sculpture, Ellen Goldberg, Trustee of the Meadmore Foundation, recently responded with exuberance that “Clem” would be thrilled with the results.

In September, The Curl was dismantled and removed from the campus, then traveled to Virginia, where in a warehouse layers of old paint were removed and the entire sculpture pressure-cleaned to remove all the rust. Areas of degradation and fissures in the surface were repaired with new steel. The entire sculpture was then sprayed with a zinc coating to strengthen its resistance to natural degradation, then sanded to create an even surface, but respecting the original surface conditions from when the sculpture was first made. Once the sculpture returned to campus, it was housed in a tent so the final coats of paint could be rolled on, as they would have been applied in Meadmore’s day. Only when the sculpture was fully dry and cured was the tent removed to reveal the sculpture in its revitalized form. To see more photos of the return of the sculpture to campus, go to the Avery Library blog, https://blogs.cul.columbia.edu/avery/2015/12/22/the-curl-is-back/.

A brief rededication ceremony was held on December 16, 2015, to celebrate the beauty of this sculpture and its importance to Columbia, and to acknowledge all of Columbia’s partners for their critical roles in bringing this project to fruition: Office of the Provost, Columbia Business School, Columbia University Facilities, Columbia University Libraries, the Meadmore Task Force and the Committee on Art Properties.

To see the latest video produced by Columbia’s Office of Communications about The Curl, including historical footage and highlights from the recent rededication ceremony, go to https://vimeo.com/columbiauniversity/review/149888572/2bfc55c0a5.

As with all the public outdoor sculpture, we kindly remind everyone to please respect these sculptures by not climbing on them or abusing or vandalizing them in any way. By doing this, you are helping to ensure the long-term preservation of these important art works for generations to come. Thank you.

Image Credit: Clement Meadmore, The Curl, 1968, Cor-Ten steel with paint, Gift of Percy Uris (1968.3.1), Photo: Brett Essler, Columbia Business School.

Meadmore’s Curl…Dismantling a Steel Sculpture

Here are a few recent photos, taken by Avery Library’s Registrar & Digital Content Librarian, showing the dismantling of Clement Meadmore’s Curl as it makes its way off-site to be conserved and returned later in the fall semester. To see even more great images, visit the Avery Library blog for images from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of the dismantling process. If you have your own images that you want to share with us, email them to artproperties@library.columbia.edu.

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Meadmore’s Curl…Conservation Begins Today

DSC_0257Conservation day has arrived! The Curl by Clement Meadmore, the large sculpture installed outside Uris Hall, is about to undergo a major conservation project. Those following the Public Outdoor Sculpture at Columbia blog may recall our previous posts about this work, including a video about its history and deteriorating condition over decades of exposure to NYC environmental conditions. In both of those posts we noted that a task force was exploring conservation options for this sculpture, and those plans are now in place.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, September 8 and 9, Conservation Solutions and their riggers will dismantle the sculpture, and on Thursday, September 10, the sculpture will be moved off-site so conservation work may begin. The sculpture will be reinstalled later in the fall semester, looking as good as it did when it arrived on campus nearly fifty years ago.

Among the more significant works of public outdoor sculpture on the Morningside Campus, the Curl by Clement Meadmore (1929-2005) was commissioned by Percy Uris (1899-1971), businessman and benefactor of the Columbia Business School. Meadmore received his training as a sculptor in Australia, and in the 1960s emigrated to the United States where he was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and the improvisational sounds of jazz. Curl was the artist’s first commission for a large-scale public monument and in 1968 it was installed on the lawn of the new Business School building, which Uris had endowed. This sculpture made Meadmore’s international reputation, and he went on to receive numerous other commissions for public outdoor sculptures from universities, corporations, and cities around the world.

Meadmore began experimenting with Cor-Ten steel, at that time a new product, and he developed his signature fluid-like geometric sculptures that belie the industrial materiality of the metal from which they are made. The inherent nature of Cor-Ten steel is that it rusts, and in the oeuvre of artists such as Richard Serra this rust effect is seen as part of the sculpture’s aesthetic. Meadmore’s interest in painting his steel structures, however, gave them a more pure and streamlined appearance. Unfortunately, over time, the degradation of the paint in combination with the oxidating steel resulted in a number of structural issues. When the Curl conservation project is completed, the revitalized sculpture’s fissures and gaps will be repaired, the rust will have been removed, and a fresh uniform coat of paint will restore the beauty of this work similar to its origins as Meadmore intended.

Acknowledgments are due to everyone who has worked on bringing this project forward, including the Office of the Provost, the Meadmore conservation task force, the Columbia Business School, Columbia Facilities, and the Columbia University Libraries.

William Ordway Partridge and the Van Amringe Memorial

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe face of John Howard Van Amringe (1835-1915), with his fashionable low-hanging whiskers, is one of the most recognizable in Columbia’s visual history. Van Amringe graduated from Columbia College in 1860 and began teaching courses in mathematics that same year. Fifty years later in 1910, he retired as the much-esteemed Dean of Columbia College and Chair of the Mathematics Dept. He was soon commemorated with a series of portrait busts by alumnus sculptor William Ordway Partridge (1861-1930). Two replicas of this bust were commissioned in bronze in 1912 and 1913 and were installed respectively in Hamilton Hall and the Columbia Club. A third, cast in 1922, was destined for the eponymous tempietto-styled pavilion that still exists outside Hartley and Wallach (formerly Livingston) Halls.

The Columbia Spectator reported on September 27, 1917, that work on the Van Amringe Memorial was underway and expected to be completed the following month. They described its design as “a circular structure containing a bust of Dean Van Amringe . . . . The quadrangle bounded by the double row of linden trees will be planted with shrubbery and evergreens to set off the monument to the best advantage.” The approved plan for the structure was described as “a stone building of classic design, consisting of a raised platform which will be a base for ten columns surmounted by a dome. It will be twenty-three feet in diameter and twenty-five feet in height.” (p. 4)

Subsequent articles reported on the need for further funding to complete the project, and the memorial was completed over the next few years. Finally, in June 1922 on Commencement Day, the third bronze bust by Partridge was installed on a marble pedestal designed by the architects McKim, Mead, and White. Inscribed on the ground around the pedestal was the following: “JOHN HOWARD VAN AMRINGE, 1835–1915 / OF THE CLASS OF 1860 / DEAN OF COLUMBIA MANY A DAY. / THE LIGHT HE LEAVES BEHIND HIM / LIES UPON THE PATHS OF MEN.”

On June 8, 1962, vandals reportedly toppled the bust off the pedestal and caused extensive damage. The bust was either repaired or replaced, and reinstalled in December of that year. In Fall 1987 the memorial underwent conservation efforts to refurbish the pavilion structure. Built to commemorate one of Columbia’s most important administrators, the Van Amringe Memorial and Quadrangle remains today one of the most popular areas for outdoor study and socializing on the grounds of the Morningside campus.

To read the Columbia Spectator in digital format, consult the Columbia University Libraries’ Digital Collections, or go to http://spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu/.

Image: William Ordway Partridge, John Howard Van Amringe as installed in the Van Amringe Memorial, designed 1912, cast and installed in 1922, bronze on a marble pedestal, H. bust: 33 in. (83.8 cm), University Commission (C00.1254). Photograph: Michael J. Munro, Art Properties, Avery Library, Columbia University.

Kees Verkade and Tightrope Walker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossing the sky bridge over Amsterdam Ave. and walking toward Columbia University’s Law School, visitors quickly see a towering bronze sculpture depicting two tightrope walkers, one balancing atop the other’s shoulders. Created as a tribute to General William J. (“Wild Bill”) Donovan, a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School, Tightrope Walker was created by the Dutch artist Kees Verkade and installed on Revson Plaza in 1979.

Born in 1883, Gen. Donovan came to prominence as the commander of New York’s “Fighting 69th” regiment in the First World War. He became the only soldier who fought in that war to receive the four highest awards: the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal. During World War II, Gen. Donovan served as the wartime head of the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. He died in 1959 and, ten years later, a group of the General’s associates and friends began fundraising to create a memorial to commemorate him, to be located on Columbia University’s Morningside campus.

The sculptor Verkade was born in Haarlem, The Netherlands, in 1941. He trained as a sculptor from the age of sixteen, when he enrolled at the Royal Academy in The Hague. During his five years of training, Verkade was introduced to the details of bronze casting, a medium that would define his future work. By 1970, his art had gained international attention when an article about him appeared in Time magazine. Soon afterward, in 1973, he was commissioned to design the sculpture honoring Gen. Donovan. In preparation for the memorial, Verkade watched archival films of the General and interviewed people who had known him in order to become more familiar with the man. In choosing to depict two tightrope walkers, one balancing upon the shoulders of the other, Verkade wanted to display the courage and controlled daring of Gen. Donovan.

The bronze sculpture, installed on Columbia University’s Revson Plaza, weighs 842 pounds and stands 14 ft. 3 in. tall, not including its plinth, which makes the monumental sculpture reach a height of 21 ft.

Verkade is also famous for his bust of Princess Grace of Monaco, an example of which is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. To learn more about Verkade, go to http://www.keesverkade.com/en.

— Michael J. Munro (GSAPP, Historic Preservation), Art Properties student assistant

Image: Kees Verkade, Tightrope Walker, commissioned in 1973, installed in 1979, bronze on marble plinth, H. 21 ft. (6.4 m), Gift of the Friends of General William J. Donovan (1979.5.5). Photograph: Michael J. Munro, Art Properties, Avery Library, Columbia University

Public Sculpture, November 2014

Here are a few new photos of the some of the public outdoor sculptures on the Morningside campus, taken by Art Properties student assistant Michael J. Munro (GSAPP, Historic Preservation). If you want to send us your photos and possibly see them on the blog, email us at artproperties@library.columbia.edu.

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Kees Verdake, “Tight Rope Walker,” 1973-79, Revson Plaza

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David Bakalar, “Life Force,” 1988-92, Revson Plaza

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Auguste Rodin, “The Thinker,” 1880-82, cast 1930, outside Philosophy Hall

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William Ordway Partridge, “John Howard Van Amringe,” 1920, Van Amringe Plaza

 

Curl: The Video

Clement Meadmore’s abstract sculpture The Curl was commissioned from the artist by Percy Uris, and in 1968 the work was installed at Columbia outside the newly-constructed Uris Hall. The Office of Marketing and Communications at the Business School recently produced this fascinating video about the history of the sculpture and its arrival on campus. Credit goes to Brett Essler, Senior Digital Content Manager, and his team for spearheading this video project. As noted in a previous post, a task force is hard at work exploring conservation options for this important sculpture.

Conserving Jefferson, Hamilton, and the Thinker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you are strolling around the Morningside campus this week and next week, you will notice people working in the hot sun treating three bronze sculptures: William Ordway Partridge’s two statues of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, and Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. Conservation Solutions has been contracted to clean, treat, patinate, and rewax these statues and their pedestals, to freshen them up and stabilize the condition of each sculpture.

Since the statue of Jefferson outside the School of Journalism is celebrating his 100th birthday this year, this seemed like a great opportunity to give him a “facelift.” Similarly, Jefferson’s partner Hamilton, installed in 1908 outside Hamilton Hall, needed cleaning and treatment. Unfortunately, the Rodin sculpture recently had been vandalized, someone having brushed and sprayed gold paint onto parts of the statue, so it too needed treatment to remove the paint and restore the statue’s protective wax finish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe two pictures you see here show the conservators using blow torches for the application of hot wax. As noted on this blog, the care and protection of public outdoor sculpture is costly, but critical to the long life of these beautiful works of art. Stay tuned for more news about conservation and the public outdoor sculpture at Columbia, and say thank you to the staff from Conservation Solutions!

Unveiling Alma Mater

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Thanks to the ongoing release of digital images from University Archives, we are able to visually relive great moments from Columbia’s past. For instance, the image you see here shows the unveiling of the sculpture Alma Mater, which was designed by Daniel Chester French and cast in bronze by John Williams. From the time of its installation, this sculpture has been a symbol of academic pride for Columbia University.

The Trustees approved French’s design for the statue in Spring 1901, and it was scheduled to be unveiled at Commencement in June 1903. However, a strike at the Williams foundry delayed completion of the statue. It was therefore officially unveiled in the late afternoon hours on September 23, 1903, following the opening exercises for the 150th academic year, which took place that same day at 3:00 PM. At the unveiling, an introductory prayer was offered by Henry Codman Potter, University Trustee and Bishop of New York. The statue was then formally presented to President Nicholas Murray Butler by John Howard Van Amringe, Dean of Columbia College, on behalf of the donors.

Alma Mater was a gift in honor of Robert Goelet of the Class of 1860 from his wife and his son, Robert Walton Goelet. What may not be immediately obvious in the image seen here is that the bronze sculpture was initially gilded and thus glowed like a gold beacon in the sunlight. As taste in sculpture changed, French returned at a later date and removed the gilding, giving the statue the brown lustre it has to this day.

For more information about the unveiling of Alma Mater, see the front page of the Columbia Daily Spectator for September 23, 1903, available online through the Columbia Spectator Archive project.