Spheres (300 – 1525)

by Artist Unknown

Photo Caption: Photo © Association for Public Art
  • Title

    Spheres

  • Artist

    Artist Unknown

  • Year

    300-1525; installed 1976

  • Location

    Currently in storage

  • Medium

    Granite monoliths, on granite bases

  • Dimensions

    Diameter 4’6″ and 6'

Acquired by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)

Owned by the Association for Public Art

At A Glance

  • This artwork is currently in storage

  • Spheres is among the sculptures included in the International Sculpture Garden

  • This sculpture came from a site near Palmar Sur in the delta of Costa Rica’s Disquis River

  • Pre-Columbian stone spheres have been discovered at sites in Central America, Puerto Rico, and Mexico

Spheres is one of several sculptures included in the International Sculpture Garden at Penn’s Landing, located along the Delaware River between Walnut and Spruce Streets. Spheres is currently in storage in preparation for the proposed redevelopment of the International Sculpture Garden.

The Association for Public Art continues to collaborate with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) on plans for the placement and design of a new sculpture garden in the Penn’s Landing vicinity.

Pre-Columbian stone spheres have been discovered at sites in Central America, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. The largest come from the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, where some reach eight feet in diameter and exceed 16 tons in weight while deviating less than a quarter-inch from perfect roundness. To shape such a monolith with primitive tools was a prodigious feat; the stone, moreover, had to be transported by river from outcrops in the mountains. Small spheres were placed in graves; larger ones were set on platforms or arranged in patterns that suggest astronomical alignments. The two spheres at the International Sculpture Garden are from a site near Palmar Sur in the delta of Costa Rica’s Disquis River. The smaller one weighs 9,000 pounds, the larger one almost 24,000. The spheres were brought to Philadelphia with the cooperation of the Costa Rican government.

The International Sculpture Garden

The International Sculpture Garden was conceived by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) in the 1960s as part of the anticipated U.S. Bicentennial celebration. The open-air installation celebrates and demonstrates the impact of other cultures on the American experience with a focus on ancient and ethnographic artworks. “Each individual piece,” the Association noted, “should not only be typical of that nation’s heritage, but should also be of the highest quality.” The sculpture collection includes a group of significant objects from diverse cultures. The Art Association acquired and installed the garden’s sculpture collection over several years, and today continues to own and care for these works.

Since its 1976 dedication, the garden’s site has undergone many changes. In 1992, Venturi Scott Brown and Associates’ Columbus Monument, a 106-foot-high obelisk, was erected at the north end, and a hotel now also occupies a portion of that section. Conditions surrounding the garden have changed dramatically in recent years, leading to a reconsideration of the existing garden site. In preparation for the proposed redevelopment of the International Sculpture Garden, most of the sculptures have been removed for conservation treatment and placed in storage.

The Association for Public Art continues to collaborate with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) on plans for the placement and design of a new sculpture garden in the Penn’s Landing vicinity. The master plan for the Central Delaware released in October 2011, commissioned by the DWRC, states they are working with the Association for Public Art to find a new, suitable location for the collection in the Penn’s Landing area where it can meet its potential as an outstanding and unique public landscape.

 

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