Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The play way

A sculpture park in St Louis turned out to be a surprise. For a start there's its superb location in the middle of downtown near the famous Eero Saarinen Gateway Arch. And then there's the way it is used. People in this city seemed to love it and want to spend time there. You forget how unusual is it to see crowds of people not only physically enjoying sculpture but also including it in the important events of their lives.

We happened to be in St Louis on Prom weekend and the place was packed with limos, anxious parents and hundreds of dressed-up kids looking for special places to be photographed. OK, the Gateway Arch was first pick but a close second was the Citygarden sculpture park. The GatewayFoundation owns the works and it obviously believes that any scuffing or wear can be readily repaired. And so there are no do not touch signs, no keep off the art notices and no barriers.

At the far end of the park a striking but sombre work by Richard Serra was left to its own devices but most everything else was in use. Kids climbed the Mark di Suvero, people imitated Julian Opie's LED walking figures, a family explored the inside of a large bronze head by Igor Mitoraj, a couple fooled around with Jim Dine's Big white gloves and prom celebrants used anything that was going to complement their striking poses.

Images: top, Climbing Mark di Suvero’s Aesop’s fables. Second row, photographing Prom outfits on Untitled (two rabbits) by Tom Claasen. Third row left, striking a pose in front of Jim Dine’s Big white gloves, big four wheels and right, kids clambering out after hiding in Eros Bendato by Igor Mitoraj. Bottom, a very McCahon-like view of the garden through a portal in Richard Serra’s Twain