Two cities in different parts of the country have recently gone for art in a big way.
In August, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ Lenfest Plaza in Philadelphia unveiled a new sculpture by 82-year-old artist Claes Oldenburg. The pop sculptor has made a career of blowing everyday objects up to gargantuan proportions and installing them in major cities across the country. Oldenburg’s latest creation is a 51-foot, light-filled paintbrush called “Paint Torch.”
This is Oldenburg’s second installation in the City of Brotherly Love. His first sculpture was a monumental 12,000-pound clothespin installed in 1976. In his newest piece, the paintbrush sticks up at a 60-degree angle, and a glob of “paint” sits on the sidewalk. Most notably, this is the first piece he has created since the death of his wife and longtime collaborator, Coosje van Bruggen, in 2009.
In July, Chicago’s Pioneer Court on Michigan Avenue became home to a 26-foot, 34,000-pound sculpture celebrating a classic scene in American cinema. J. Seward Johnson’s “Forever Marilyn” features a supersized Marilyn Monroe as she appeared in Billy Wilder’s 1955 film, The Seven Year Itch, frozen in the moment as her iconic white dress is raised by a blast of air.
But as it beset the actress herself, controversy has surrounded the sculpture since its debut. Complaints range from claims that the piece is sexist (there have been stories of lewd novelty pictures being taken) to questions about the quality of the art itself (critics have called it “kitschy”), to irritation over the fact that the movie took place in New York City, not Chicago.