Over the years, the Association for Public Art (aPA) has commissioned, purchased, and placed an impressive selection of sculpture in various settings throughout Philadelphia.
These artworks parallel the history of American sculpture, ideals, and patronage and include historic masterworks by Alexander Milne Calder, Alexander Stirling Calder, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Frederic Remington, and Daniel Chester French; modern sculptures by renowned artists Paul Manship, Jacques Lipchitz, Isamu Noguchi, and Henry Moore; and contemporary works by Martin Puryear, Siah Armajani, Mark di Suvero, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Candy Coated, and Roxy Paine. Thanks to the efforts of the Association and other public art agencies, Philadelphia boasts one of the largest collections of public art of any American city.
Our work in public spaces has continuously evolved over time in response to current art making practice, and we often develop projects around specific themes or goals that advance community needs or civic issues that otherwise would not be addressed. The aPA explores new directions in public art to give broader perspectives to the public environment and greater opportunities for artists.
Many of the public art works you see in Philadelphia were commissioned or acquired by aPA and later donated to the City of Philadelphia. In addition to stewarding its current outdoor collection, aPA still maintains an active role in these historic works through preservation and interpretation.
Below is a list of some of the recent public artworks that the Association for Public Art (aPA) has commissioned, acquired, or presented. See a more expansive list of aPA projects here.
June 12 – November 12, 2023
The Association for Public Art has brought Maren Hassinger’s Steel Bodies to Philadelphia from Socrates Sculpture Park as a temporary exhibition at the historic Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial on Kelly Drive. Part of an ongoing effort to reimagine the site, Steel Bodies is the first contemporary public art exhibition at the memorial and Hassinger’s first outdoor sculpture exhibition in Philadelphia.
Installation: March 2021
After years in storage, Gerhard Marcks’ Maja (1942) was placed in a new park on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Maja Park. The Association purchased Maja in 1949 and had been waiting for the right opportunity to reinstall the work, which once stood atop the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps.
Nancy Baker Cahill
July 2020 – July 2021
Nancy Baker Cahill’s Liberty Bell is an animated, monumental and richly sonorous augmented reality drawing in 360 degrees that relies on geolocation. This AR project was on view in six U.S. cities simultaneously, including Philadelphia, where the Association for Public Art was the host partner for the installation.
December 2017 – March 2018
A centerpiece of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway centennial, four fiberglass domes glowed nightly with Jennifer Steinkamp’s dream-like animated video projections, inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s research and evoking the art and science explorations represented by the Parkway institutions.
September – October 2017
Cai Guo-Qiang’s largest public art project in the US in a decade, Fireflies invited the public to ride at night along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway inside a fleet of 27 pedicabs, which were adorned with clusters of hundreds of illuminated, handmade Chinese lanterns. The lanterns were handcrafted in Cai Guo-Qiang’s hometown of Quanzhou, China.
June – November 2017
Rising forty feet high and eliciting many interpretations, Big Bling (2016) is Puryear’s largest temporary outdoor sculpture to date. The sculpture was brought to Philadelphia through a collaboration with New York’s Madison Square Park Conservancy, which commissioned the work. The sculpture’s next stop was MASS MoCA.
On the occasion of the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Association for Public Art presented the installation of AMOR (1998) atop the Museum’s famous steps, where it overlooked the Papal Mass. In 2016, the sculpture was permanently installed in Sister Cities Park at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
July – August 2014
Magic Carpet transformed The Oval in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art into a magical environment of color, pattern, illusion, and movement, with pink-colored sandboxes, oversized game boards, and the artist Candy Coated’s signature decorative motifs rendered in vinyl, among other attractions.
Hand-fabricated from thousands of pieces of stainless steel pipe, plate, and rods, Symbiosis (2011) suggests both ecological and anatomical branching systems. The Association for Public Art received a generous grant from the Daniel W. Dietrich II Trust, Inc. to acquire the sculpture, which is installed on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Rock Form (1964) was donated to the Association for Public Art in 2011 by art patron David N. Pincus, and installed at 17th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2012. One of the 20th century’s most eminent sculptors, Hepworth was a friend of Henry Moore, whose sculpture Three Way Piece Number 1: Points is placed nearby.
September – October 2012
A world-premiere interactive light installation, OPEN AIR transformed Philadelphia’s night sky with 24 powerful robotic searchlights. Unique, dynamic light formations were directed by participants’ voice messages and GPS locations. The work was inspired by the city’s rich tradition of democracy and respect for free speech.
The Labor Monument in Philadelphia’s Elmwood Park commemorates the contributions of organized labor nationwide and Philadelphia’s working class history. Each bronze relief sculpture represents an important event in labor history, and blue paving and brick detailing around the seating elements suggest the denim and stitching on workers’ clothing.
John H. Stone, Lonnie Graham, Lorene Cary
Commissioned as part of the New•Land•Marks program and developed with the anti-homelessness organization Project H.O.M.E., Common Ground provides new dedicated meeting places for the community to gather, reflect, and celebrate the neighborhood.
Mark di Suvero
Formed from painted steel I-beams, Mark di Suvero’s 40-foot-high Iroquois (1983-1999) has a robust energy and physical presence. The red-orange sculpture was acquired by the Association for Public Art in 2007 with the support of art patron David N. Pincus. The artist describes his monumental sculptures as “paintings in three dimensions with the crane as my paintbrush.”
Nine colorful mosaic “stoops” by Philadelphia artist Diane Pieri serve as seating elements along the Manayunk Canal Towpath. They are an interpretation of the front steps and entryways that mark the neighborhood’s architecture and street life. The artwork was commissioned as part of the Association for Public Art’s New•Land•Marks program.
A series of wooden structures “between sculpture and architecture” in Pennypack Park explore different aspects of humanity’s relationship to nature. The artwork was commissioned as part of the Association for Public Art’s New•Land•Marks program and developed with the Pennypack Environmental Center.
To realize this project, Pepón Osorio collected photographs from Philadelphia’s Latino community and sought images of shared experiences and local events that have impacted community life. Part of the New•Land•Marks program, this is Osorio’s first permanent public art commission.