Copper in the Arts

April 2021

Two Monumental Copper Sculptures Join Forces at Philadelphia Museum

By Lisa Scheid

Philamuseum2.jpgBronze Bowl with Lace by Ursula von Rydingsvard’ on display at the
Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Photograph courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is exhibiting this spring and summer the bronze and copper wire work of two innovative women.

Ursula von Rydingsvard’s monumental Bronze Bowl with Lace is on view in the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden. Representative of the artist’s signature forms, scale, materials, and techniques, the majestic piece conveys a sense of deep emotion. It is exhibited with von Rydingsvard’s urethane work, Elegantka II.

Standing almost 20 feet tall, Bronze Bowl with Lace (2013-2014, cast 2017-2018) was cast from a full-scale cedar model. The top of the bronze is perforated and delicately lit from within with a soft amber light that lights during the evening.

The exhibit, Now She: Two Sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard, was installed in 2018 and is on view through May 2021. It was curated by Alice Beamesderfer, the Pappas-Sarbanes Deputy Director for Collections and Programs.

The vibrant Von Rydingsvard, 79, was the subject of a 2020 documentary, Into Her Own, which ArtNews selected as one of the 10 best documentaries of the year.

Born in Deensen, Germany, von Rydingsvard has lived and worked in New York since the 1970s. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is represented in the collections of major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Modern Art; the National Gallery of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

In 2015, Princeton University permanently installed her first monumental work in hand-pounded copper. She has been honored by the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, and has received three awards from the American section of the International Association of Art Critics, and the International Sculpture Center Lifetime Achievement Award. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Phila_Museum2.jpgSenza titolo (Untitled), by Marisa Merz.
Photograph courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Also at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is Marisa Merz’s copper wire and nail sculpture, which can be viewed through July 11, 2021 as part of an installation celebrating the life and legacy of this pioneering Italian artist.

Senza titolo (Untitled), undated, is on loan from Fondazione Merz. Merz died in 2019 at the age of 93.

For many years Merz refrained from dating her artwork. She also declined to present it in traditional exhibition settings. Those choices stemmed from her belief that art could not be separated from daily life. Inspired by Byzantine religious icons, Renaissance painting, and domestic interactions with her husband, Mario Merz, and daughter, Beatrice, her work reflects an ongoing exploration of the tensions between the private and the public, the spiritual and the profane. 

Merz’s work combines a keen attention to materials with a deeply personal symbolism. The sole female artist affiliated with Arte Povera movement, Merz used unconventional materials in an attempt to connect art and life.

Using malleable materials like copper wire, wax, and unfired clay and incorporating heavy metals and industrial paints, she subverts feminine stereotypes.


Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA, (215) 763-8100

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