Coming to Philadelphia in Spring 2017!

In June 2017, in collaboration with Madison Square Park Conservancy, the Association for Public Art (aPA) will present Big Bling, a temporary monumental work by acclaimed sculptor Martin Puryear.

The largest outdoor sculpture Puryear has created, “Big Bling” is part animal form, part abstract sculpture, and part intellectual meditation.

Big Bling was commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy, New York, and first will be exhibited beginning May 16, 2016 by Mad. Sq. Art, the contemporary art program of the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

>> See press release

The artist has conceived a multi-tier wood structure wrapped in fine chain-link fence. A gold-leafed shackle is anchored near the top of the structure. At forty feet high, Big Bling achieves colossal scale and elicits a range of readings, stimulating diverse and profound interpretations of its meaning.

Martin Puryear's Big Bling sculpture installed at Madison Square Park
Martin Puryear, Big Bling, 2016. Pressure-treated laminated timbers, plywood, chain-link fence, fiberglass, and gold leaf, 40 x 10 x 38 ft. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. © Martin Puryear. Photo by Rashmi Gill.

The largest temporary outdoor sculpture Puryear has created, Big Bling is part animal form, part abstract sculpture, and part intellectual meditation. The artist’s signature organic vocabulary appears in a graceful, sinewy outline and an amoeboid form in the work’s center.

Big Bling’s architectural language suggests a building that is accessible by ascension through its levels. Its storeys are obstructed by chain-link fence, a barrier to entry, which will cover all visible surfaces of the sculpture. In contrast to the coarse materials employed throughout most of the work, the gold shackle is a shimmering beacon that simultaneously adorns and restrains. (The term “bling” is rooted in urban youth and rap culture of the 1990s and refers to flashy jewelry and accessories.)

Martin Puryear (American, b. 1941), an American sculptor known for his devotion to traditional ways of working, typically creates handmade artworks using methods gleaned from carpentry, boat building, and other trades with spare, exacting stylistic dignity. Wood, his signature material, is employed in Big Bling to anchor the physicality of the tremendous sculpture.

Following New York, Big Bling will travel for installation in Philadelphia by the Association for Public Art, opening in June 2017 where it will be on view for six months. This is a first-time collaboration between Madison Square Park Conservancy and the Association for Public Art.

Philadelphia is home to another Puryear artwork. In 1981, Pavilion in the Trees was conceived as part of the Fairmount Park Art Association’s (now the Association for Public Art) Form and Function program. Realized in 1993, Pavilion consists of an open structure supported by a series of posts using materials similarly found in Big Bling. Situated high among the treetops, Pavilion has become a much-favored place to relax and contemplate nature from a bird’s-eye view.

Voices heard in the program:
Martin Puryear, the artist who created Pavilion in the Trees, was inspired by his childhood longing for a tree house. He is heard on archival tape courtesy Art 21, Inc.
Bob Taylor, a woodworker who specializes in custom millwork, built the canopy for Pavilion in the Trees at Martin Puryear’s direction.
Michael Auping is the Chief Curator of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas. He contributed to the volume Martin Puryear, published on the occasion of the artist’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Segment Producer: Lu Olkowski


MARTIN PURYEAR (American, b. 1941) earned his B.A. from Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. (1963) and his M.F.A. from Yale University (1971). He served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone (1964-66) and attended the Swedish Royal Academy of Art (1966-68). Puryear’s 2007 retrospective was organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York and traveled to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. An exhibition of his drawings, Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions, was on view at New York’s Morgan Library & Museum. He has received many distinguished awards, including the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (1980), a Louis Comfort Tiffany Grant (1982), and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1989). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1992) and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Yale University (1994). Puryear lives and works in the Hudson Valley region of New York.

Martin Puryear's Big Bling sculpture
Martin Puryear, Maquette for Big Bling, 2014. Birch plywood, maple, 22-karat gold leaf, 40 1/4 x 9 1/8 x 40 in. (maquette); 40 x 10 x 38 ft. (projected size). Collection of the artist. © Martin Puryear. Photograph by Jamie Stukenberg, Professional Graphics

MADISON SQUARE PARK CONSERVANCY is the not-for-profit organization whose mission is to protect, nurture, and enhance Madison Square Park, a dynamic seven-acre public green space, creating an environment that fosters moments of inspiration. The Conservancy is committed to engaging the community through its beautiful gardens, inviting amenities, and world-class programming. Madison Square Park Conservancy is licensed by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to manage Madison Square Park and is responsible for raising 98% of the funds necessary to operate the Park, including the brilliant horticulture, park maintenance, sanitation, security, and free cultural programs for Park visitors of all ages. See more at:

The ASSOCIATION FOR PUBLIC ART (aPA, formerly Fairmount Park Art Association) commissions, preserves, interprets, and promotes public art in Philadelphia. The aPA is the nation’s first private nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a “Museum Without Walls” that informs, engages, and inspires diverse audiences. We honor the past while supporting originality and innovation, and we advance opportunities for creative people to contribute to the city’s places and spaces. Established in 1872, the aPA integrates public art and urban design through exemplary programs and advocacy efforts that connect people with public art. We respond to the conditions of our time, adding new perspectives to the civic landscape and maintaining a legacy for future generations, while promoting Philadelphia as a premier city for public art.

Association for Public Art and Madison Square Park Conservancy Logos

Martin Puryears Big Bling in Madison Square Park
Martin Puryear, Big Bling, 2016. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery. © Martin Puryear. Photo Caitlin Martin for the Association for Public Art
The Association for Public Art is supported in part by our members, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.


Martin Puryear, Big Bling, 2016. Collection of the artist, courtesy Matthew of Marks Gallery. © Martin Puryear. The exhibition was organized by Madison Park Conservancy, New York. Major exhibition support for Big Bling is provided by the Ford Foundation, Matthew Marks Gallery, The Henry Luce Foundation, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, J.P. Morgan Securities and Unalam of Unadilla, New York, with substantial exhibition support provided by the Association for Public Art.


Big Bling is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Mad. Sq. Art is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Mad. Sq. Art is supported in part with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. Madison Square Park Conservancy is a public/private partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.


Related Artworks


Pavilion in the Trees


by Martin Puryear (b. 1941)

Lansdowne Glen, Horticulture Center grounds, off North Horticultural Drive, West Fairmount Park

A sixty-foot walkway leads across a natural basin to an observation platform – a square deck covered by a latticed canopy – that rises twenty-four feet above the ground.

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