Serra Sculpture Park

10th, 11th, Market, Chestnut streets
Saint Louis, MO 63103

Love it; hate it.

The installation of Richard Serra's sculpture "Twain" in 1982 sparked the latest controversy in the history of criticism of public art in St. Louis parks.

And, like its predecessors, it remains in place despite calls for its removal.

"The Naked Truth" caused an uproar in 1914 when it was unveiled in Compton Reservoir Park and the figures in Aloe Plaza's "Meeting of the Waters" were criticized when built in 1940.

Serra called his work "Twain" but most St. Louisans refer to it as "The Serra Sculpture."

The seven 40-foot steel panels and one 50-foot slab were put in place in March 1982 under the supervision of the sculptor, Richard Serra. As he directed the installation of the art work, he told the Post-Dispatch, "It's an enclosure. To experience the piece, you must walk through it. You won't know the world after one view. Visually, the only total view will be from one of the high buildings. It is not a solid, high steel wall. It has eight openings. The piece relates to the Arch, to the intersections, to the buildings."

While Serra encouraged everyone to "experience" his scultpure, it is the park employees who maintain the art work who have "experienced" the piece more than any art lover. From cutting the grass, both in the center and outside of the work, to removing the graffiti that accumulates on a regular basis, park employees are the curators of the piece.

"Twain" is not the only Serra work in St. Louis. Emily Pulitzer, who was instrumental in bring "Twain" to downtown, asked Serra to design a piece in honor of her late husband, Joseph Pulitzer. Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts contains Richard Serra's 125-ton twisting steel spiral "Joe" in a shared courtyard of the Pulitzer Foundation and the Forum for Contemporary Arts.

In an article in Commerce Magazine, Emily Pulitzer discussed the two Serra works: "Both have to do with the viewer in relation to the sculpture," Pulitzer said, "but 'Twain' is about experiencing where you are. 'Joe' is more about the sculpture itself and its space." Part of appreciating "Twain," Pulitzer explained, proceeds from the views of downtown St. Louis framed in its gaps. "'Twain' is a simpler intellectual concept than 'Joe,' and yet its experience requires more thought," she said.

Jeff Daniel, Art critic, St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote: "Many St. Louisans know of Serra only through "Twain," his 8-panel sculptural piece on downtown's Gateway Mall. Installed in 1982, the horizontal configuration of large steel slabs represents Serra at his most minimal -- a fact that has often raised the ire of many who consider the piece a static waste of space, or even an eyesore.

"But it's safe to say that the majority of those who pass "Twain" never realize that the work like "Joe" and the vast majority of Serra's catalog -- is a piece designed for movement. Granted, the sculpture is quite static and lifeless if viewed from the street in a passing car. But "Twain," with its series of small open spaces placed between slabs, depends on human activity within its walls, the open slots offering up varying views of the surrounding city scape. Like much of Serra's art, it's a tough piece both physically and conceptually, a combination not often conducive to wide appeal."

In the years since it was installed, the work has rusted and become part of the urban landscape of downtown St. Louis.
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