Claes Oldenburg’s Paint Torch installation at PAFA’s Lenfest Plaza stirs up curiosity
By now, anyone who’s stepped foot on N Broad in Center City will likely have noticed a very big addition to the streetscape. I’m talking about Paint Torch, the 51-foot sculpture of a paintbrush, jutting onto Broad from the center of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ soon-to-be open Lenfest Plaza. Megan and I were on hand at the installation on Saturday, August 20, along with staff and supporters of PAFA, sculptor Claes Oldenburg himself, plenty of journalists and dozens of Philly onlookers. The installation took most of the day and caused lots of well-deserved rubbernecking from passersby. Luckily the rain held off and we were able to see first-hand how impressive the new public art work really is, and just how difficult of a construction project it is to place a sculpture as large as Paint Torch.
Lifting the bristles into place. Photo by Sean Tucker, courtesy of PAFA.
One of the coolest aspects of observing the installation was to witness Mr. Oldenburg decide on-site which direction the paint glob would face on the plaza ground. It took a full team to lift the glob and lower it into place. It was spun around and placed in different positions as Mr. Oldenburg looked on.
The paint glob is positioned. Photo by Emaleigh Doley.
The New York Times dispatched a photographer to Philadelphia to capture the moment. You can view the Times photo slide show by visiting the NYT Art & Design section here. I like the sense of wonderment in onlooker’s eyes, including Mr. Oldenburg’s. If that is not enough, I highly suggest taking a look at PAFA’s collection of installation photos on Flickr here for the behind-the-scenes experience.
Twitter has been abuzz about Philadelphia’s latest Oldenburg, which was commissioned specifically for Lenfest Plaza by PAFA. Tweets from @NYTimesArts, @ArtinAmerica, @WhitneyMuseum, @ArtNetDotCom, @uwishunu, and many others hit twitter feeds, including an especially funny observation from WHYY’s @petercrimmins.
Construction on Lenfest Plaza is currently still ongoing, but you can get a glimpse of Paint Torch now – you can’t miss it, trust me! You’ll have to wait until Saturday, October 1 to get the full effect as the paintbrush tip and paint glob are illuminated for the very first time during “The Enlightenment” ceremony, which starts at 6:30 p.m. The event is part of PAFA’s Party on the Plaza, the grand opening celebration of Lenfest Plaza, which kicks off at noon. Can’t wait!
Mr. Oldenburg oversaw the installation of Paint Torch. Photo by Ed Poletti, courtesy of PAFA.
Another perspective from within Lenfest Plaza, looking out towards the Convention Center. Photo by Sean Tucker, courtesy of PAFA.
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