Backstage

  • <b>“Forever Marilyn,” by Seward Johnson, Palm Springs, CA</b><br />
The 26-foot statue of iconic screen legend Marilyn Monroe took up residence on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile for 10 months before recently moving to Palm Springs, where it will stay for a year. The statue, created by sculptor Seward Johnson, depicts the famous scene from The Seven Year Itch and weighs 40,000 pounds. Despite attracting flocks of sightseers daily, the installation was a frequent target for graffiti in Chicago, and earned a slot in the list of 10 pieces of bad public art in the U.S. by VirtualTourist.com. Johnson is known for creating huge pop culture sculptures and placing them in public locations.
  • <b>“Heads” by Jun Kaneko, San Francisco, CA</b><br />
Rena Bransten Gallery and the San Francisco Arts Commission teamed up on the installation of two 6-foot ceramic heads, which are stationed outside the War Memorial Opera House through November. The installation, by Japanese artist Jun Kaneko, coincides with the June premiere the San Francisco’ Opera’s The Magic Flute, which Kaneko did the production design on. Kaneko has been making pairs of heads since 1994, and the pieces are connected to his interest in Eastern philosophy and explore communication between people. “Jun Kaneko's public space projects engage and surprise with monumental scale and vivid glazing,” Rena Bransten said in a release.
  • <b>“Eye” by Tony Tasset, Chicago, IL</b><br />
Each summer, the Chicago Loop Alliance brings a major new installation to the city’s downtown area. In 2010, that work was “EYE,” a structure so striking that residents are still talking about it. The 30-foot sculpture, made of steel-reinforced fiberglass, was on view for four months in Pritzker Park. “EYE” was the work of Chicago-based contemporary artist Tony Tasset, who is known for his humorous pieces. He said in a release that he hoped that “EYE” changed “the everyday experience for pedestrians and drivers along State Street… the enormous scale of the EYE serves to miniaturize its surroundings.”
  • <b>“Dropped Cone” by Claes Oldenburg, Cologne, Germany</b><br />
Claes Oldenburg’s giant “Dropped Cone” is perched on the edge of a shopping mall building in Newmarkt Square, appearing as though it fell from the sky. Meant to symbolize transience and consumerism, the cone is made of stainless and galvanized steels, fiber-reinforced plastic, and balsawood. Cologne has many church spires that break through the city’s skyline, and the cone echoes that.
  • <b>“Be a Pin Up” by Lulu Guinness, London, England</b><br />
Fashion designer Lulu Guinness created this interactive art installation for Clerkenwell Design Week. Stationed at St John’s Gate from May 24-26, 2011, passersby could press themselves against the 6,000 chromed capped aluminum pins to create full-body portraits. Guinness ran a simultaneous contest on her Facebook page—visitors were asked to create the best impression and post a picture of it. The pin-up that garnered the most likes won a Lulu Guinness Clerkenwell Lips Clutch.
  • <b>“Sleepers” by Mark Jenkins, Winston-Salem, NC</b><br />
The D.C.-based artist is known for his provocative street installations, which are inspired by his travels through the vibrant neighborhoods of South America. In 2009, he took his work to North Carolina, where he created “Sleepers,” which included separate installations—a person in a bed sleeping, someone zonked out atop a billboard, and a standing figure in a sleeping bag. Jenkins doesn’t have expectations for his work—he views his installations as “questions” that let people take away from them what they want.
  • <b>“1600 Stacked Chairs” by Doris Salcedo, Istanbul, Turkey</b><br />
Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s work is deeply rooted in questions of memory, history and time. For this installation, created for the eighth Istanbul Biennial in 2003, Salcedo filled in a gap between buildings with 1,600 chairs. Furniture and other domestic items appear frequently in Salcedo’s work. A single chair represents a person, and here she draws attention to the lack of power so many people have in the Third World. <br />
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“Sculpture is its materiality,” she said in an interview in a catalog of her work. “I work with materials that are already charged with significance, with meaning they have acquired in the practice of everyday life…then, I work to the point where it becomes something else, where metamorphosis is reached.”
  • <b>'Sunbathers' by Calder Greenwood, Los Angeles, CA</b><br />
Initially displayed anonymously, Greenwood took responsibility for the installation on his Facebook page with a link to a story by The Los Angeles Times and a comment, “haha made the news!” The paper mache installation ran just a few days at an empty downtown lot. The Times article reported “People rushing along 1st Street stopped their cell phone conversations to peer through the fence. Others did double-takes as they continued walking, removing their sunglasses for a better look.” Greenwood’s work got buzz in part for its whimsicality, but also for his use of social media—the New York native (who works in film production/photography/graphic design) posted updates and photos to his Facebook account.
  • <b>“Borders” by Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir, Seattle, WA</b><br />
Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir takes over Seattle this summer, with her exhibit “Borders,” which features 26 life-size human sculptures made of cast iron and aluminum in Westlake Park. The figures stand around the park and sit on park benches. The show looks at humanity and cultural diversity, and it’s situated amidst another installation in the park. Earlier this year, artist Konstantin Dimopoulos created blue trees with pigmented water to make people notice that trees are all around us and vital to our lives. Also on view in Seattle is “Borders at the Nordic Heritage Museum,” which runs through August 28 and features smaller figures by Thórarinsdóttir along with photographs Murray Head took of the New York “Borders” exhibit in 2011.
  • <b>“Die Badende” by Oliver Voss, Hamburg, Germany</b><br />
67-foot long, two-ton sculpture attracted boaters and tourists, but her swim in the lake wasn’t purely art for art’s sake—it was an advertisement for Soap & Glory, a British cosmetics company, and aimed to promote the “art” of bathing. Not all reaction was positive: The Daily Mail reported that district mayor Markus Schreiber told a German newspaper that “Die Badende” was “sullying the beloved lake.”
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Public Appeal

We're all used to seeing sculptures gracing galleries, but public art installations are appearing more frequently all over the world. Whether it's a giant ice cream cone perched on the roof of a building or a huge statue of Marilyn Monroe, art installations encourage us to pause for a moment and ponder the unexpected sight. Scroll through the above to see several examples of these installations that really make you stop and think.
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