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News — 6 Aug 2013

We were saddened to learn that Walter de Maria (1935, Albany, CA, US) died on Thursday, July 25, 2013. The Stedelijk Museum remembers de Maria as a meticulous and masterful artist with a refined sense of monumentality and materiality, and his death marks the passing of an inspiring artist and seminal figure in American conceptual art.

Walter de Maria began his artistic career as an organizer of “happenings,” and as the drummer in a band that later evolved into the Velvet Underground. In the early days of his career, around 1961, he created the first of his conceptual works which would later secure his artistic reputation. In 1966, de Maria began to explore a more material direction in his work, and created his signature sculptures: metal, arranged on the ground without a plinth, and in the form of long rods – a visual element that he used throughout his career, including his most recent works.  

Among de Maria’s characteristic pieces are 17 Sided Open Polygon (1984) and Apollo’s Ecstasy (1990), both in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum. The latter is currently featured at the Venice Biennale, as the finale of the Arsenale’s international exhibition. The sculptural installation Apollo’s Ecstasy consists of twenty five-meter-long, solid bronze rods placed on the floor at one-meter intervals. Positioned at a slight angle, the rods form an installation measuring four by twenty-three meters. The imposing, gleaming bronze rods are a reference to the ecstasy of the Greek sun god Apollo. The piece was purchased in 1990, when it was part of Energies, an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam that explored the power of form, autonomy, and innovation. Conceived by Wim Beeren, then director of the Stedelijk, the exhibition’s concept was inspired by a 1989 visit by Walter de Maria to Stockholm’s Moderna Museet. Wim Beeren praised the American for producing work of an exceptional, profound nature.

Walter de Maria was an influential artist who consistently produced unique, high-quality installations. He was not only a key figure in the American art world but also an inspiration for younger generations of artists everywhere. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Walter de Maria’s family and friends. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him, as well as those who had the privilege to work with him.