Richard Serra’s 1991 work Seattle Right Angles Propped is the newest piece of public art installed at the University of Chicago—steel forged in two parts that meet at a right angle, two Ls that support each other with the force of counterweight and gravity.
In its previous location in a backyard beachfront of suburban Glencoe, Illinois, the sculpture provided a frame around where the rolling landscape met Lake Michigan. Now, in its new home 30 miles south, it echoes both in form and meaning the portico that connects UChicago’s Department of Art History and the Smart Museum of Art. It also underscores the University’s commitment to bring public art to the Hyde Park community.
“From each direction, you get a different slice,” said Prof. Christine Mehring, an expert in modern and contemporary art who chairs the Department of Art History. “I’m looking forward to taking hundreds of students out here at all times of year.”
Dorie Sternberg, Lab’43, donated the piece to the Smart, where it was installed in May and formally unveiled in June.
Over the years, Sternberg and her late husband Paul cultivated a notable art collection in their home. They couldn’t resist Serra, who since the 1960s has revolutionized the genre of massive sculptural work—typically using steel in site-specific urban spaces. The Sternbergs commissioned Seattle Right Angles Propped for their yard and could admire it from their glass-walled kitchen every day.
After her husband passed away in 2004, Sternberg decided that she wanted to see some of her art donations placed in her lifetime, including the Serra sculpture. The work seemed destined to travel south: Sternberg (née Feitler), grew up near UChicago on Woodlawn Avenue, and her brother, Robert Feitler, Lab’45, X’50, is a former board chair of the Smart Museum.