News — 13 Sep 2012

On the eve of the reopening of the Stedelijk Museum on September 23rd, the iconic sculpture "Sight Point (for Leo Castelli)" by American artist Richard Serra will be reinstalled on the Museumplein. Conceived in 1972, the work comprises of three weatherproof steel plates — each weighing 17 tons and measuring 10 feet (3.0 meters) wide, 38.4 feet (11.7 meters) high and 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) thick — balanced against each other to form an equilateral triangle at its apex. Originally installed in 1975 in the museum’s former sculpture garden, "Sight Point (for Leo Castelli)" was removed in 1997 to accommodate the redesign of the Museumplein. The work will now be installed in its permanent location at the new entrance to the Stedelijk Museum, and visitors will once again be able to walk between its monumental steel plates.

American artist Richard Serra (b. 1938) is one of the most important post minimalist artists working today. With his huge, geometric steel sculptures he challenges viewers in their relationship to space, often inviting them to walk through the works.

The first sculpture in which Serra fully addressed his sculptural concern of counterbalancing weight on an immense scale and in the open air, "Sight Point (for Leo Castelli)" is a key work in the artist’s oeuvre. It was followed by numerous monumental sculptures in public spaces, both in Europe and the United States. Moreover, it is Serra’s first sculpture in which the inner space, and hence the effect of light, is important.

Weatherproof steel is a steel alloy to which copper, phosphorus, silicon, nickel and chrome have been added. When exposed to the elements the surface corrodes, gradually acquiring a reddish-brown, rust-like color that darkens over time. The sculpture has recently been sand blasted and, when installed, will be the original color of steel; it will regain its red-brown patina in a few years.

The creation of "Sight Point (for Leo Castelli)" goes back to 1972, when Serra entered a competition to design an artwork for the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. His sculpture won but was not built because the university architect felt that it would be too large and too close to a historic building. After a meeting between Stedelijk Director Edy de Wilde and the artist, Sight Point (for Leo Castelli) was installed in the museum’s new sculpture garden in 1975. 

When construction work on the new museum began, former Stedelijk Director Gijs van Tuyl, architect Mels Crouwel and the artist discussed the most appropriate siting of "Sight Point (for Leo Castelli)". The reorientation of the Stedelijk entrance hall to square of the Museumplein and extensive use of glass in the futuristic wing has fundamentally created a new square. On this location, Sight Point (for Leo Castelli) will function as a landmark, creating a striking contrast to the gleaming white façade of the “bathtub.”

Bart Rutten, visual arts curator at the Stedelijk Museum, vividly recalls the sculpture’s impact: “The massive rust-brown towering above the treetops was a remarkably elegant exercise in sight lines and gravity: the monumentality, the materiality that expressed its weight, and the effortless dexterity with which the work maintains its balance. And however huge and imposing the sculpture appeared, as you walked around it, it seemed to move. The planes and angles changed endlessly. And if you plucked up the courage to go inside
(I remember the first time I dared to set foot beneath that enormous weight) you were awed by the incredible light that greeted you. Your gaze was drawn irresistibly upwards, following the sharply upward-slanting line of light, until it finally ascended, through the perfect triangle framing the sky, into the heavens.”