Fans of Claes Oldenburg’s Split Button, rejoice! The well-known white sculpture, which has been outside Van Pelt Library since 1981, will receive another cross-town companion in the next year or so. The 81-year-old artist will create an outdoor paintbrush sculpture that will stand at more than 50 feet tall in a new Center City plaza (located on Cherry Street from Broad to 15th Street).
“What suggested itself here was a paintbrush because a paintbrush is a symbol of a type of art that has kind of gone out of fashion,” Oldenburg recently told reporters. The brush will join Oldenburg’s Clothespin (1976), which sits on Market Street just west of City Hall and, one might argue, depicts a similarly antiquated object.
In honor of the Button‘s soon-to-be sibling, here are a few fun facts about Penn’s own Oldenburg piece:
- It weighs 5,000 lbs. and is 16 ft. across
- In discussing the work, Oldenburg told the Inquirer that “the split represents the Schuylkill. It divides the button into four parts–for William Penn’s original Philadelphia squares.”
- Some were quite critical of the work when it first appeared on campus in 1981, calling it the “only…thing [that] mars the calm beauty of the center of campus” and “a monument to someone’s overinflated ego, an expression of supreme arrogance.”
- It has since become a popular campus fixture, and it’s not unusual to see people interacting with it daily–including children using it as a slide.
What do you think of Oldenburg’s Button, Clothespin and proposed Paintbrush sculptures?