From the "Perils of Public Art" file:
Los Angeles' landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall has been open for almost three years now, but remains incomplete in at least one respect. The broad expanse of now-empty sidewalk in front of one of its major entrances has been intended from the outset to include "Collar and Bow," an enormous sculptural representation of a starched formal collar and accompanying black tie -- think of it as the collar and tie from King Kong's monkey suit -- by the team of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.
The only image of the work I have been able to find online is the very small rendering that accompanies this overly optimistic press release from a year ago, announcing expected completion and installation by the end of 2005.
Alas for supporters, not only is the work not yet in place, but today's Los Angeles Times reports that the entire project now appears to be falling apart:
'Collar and Bow' — a major outdoor sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, designed for the Walt Disney Concert Hall and scheduled to be installed this summer — has been put on hold, stalled by a technical problem requiring two components to be rebuilt at a cost that may be prohibitive, the Music Center and the artists say.
The 65-foot-tall metal and fiberglass sculpture takes the shape of a men's dress shirt collar and bowtie. Set for installation on the sidewalk at the corner of 1st Street and Grand Avenue, the artwork was intended to complement the sail-like curves of the concert hall, designed by architect Frank O. Gehry.
The foundation of the sculpture, the bowtie, its band and the base of the collar are complete. One of two upper sections of the collar was finished too, but it began to come apart in December, said Stephen D. Rountree, president of the Music Center of Los Angeles County. After several months of study, the artists, architect, engineers and fabricators determined that the problem affected the structural integrity and viability of the sculpture, he said, and that the only way to fix it is to remake the two parts of the upper collar using different engineering and fabrication methods.
The estimated cost for reconstruction is $3 million -- more than the entire project was intended to cost in the first place -- in addition to $4 million already invested. Life may be cheap in this town, but Art is not. The Times identifies some of the factors contributing to the run-up in the cost of the piece:
Oldenburg, Van Bruggen and Gehry began to conceptualize "Collar and Bow" in 1993. As the idea evolved, the artists designed an enormous sculpture meant to look as if it had been flung into the air and had landed lightly on the sidewalk. Many changes occurred while the work was in process. It grew from a height of about 35 feet to nearly twice that, and an unexpected slant in the sidewalk required tilting the artwork on its foundation.
I'm all choked up, though this piece has never struck me as being particularly promising. Here at a fool in the forest, we intend to grab this story by the throat and not to let go.
Of related interest:
Apologies to my readers generally, and to John Denver fans particularly, for the more than usually strained pun in this post's title.