Henry Moore’s American Patrons and Public Commissions
Sculpture, urbanism and the art of business
50 Moore replied that he was working on a large sculpture in collaboration with Skidmore Owings & Merrill to be placed in the atrium of 3 First National Plaza, a complex owned by Gerald D. Hines.51 Moore understood that the architects were looking for a sculpture that could be viewed from the different levels of the building, and produced his tallest work to date.52 The sheer scale of Large Upright Internal/External Form 1981 within the nine-storey lobby proved undeniably striking (fig.5).
Office lobbies in the 1950s had increasing security problems, their social function having all but disappeared, but it was recognised that a new identity for the building could be created through a large artwork.53 Chicago was the source of a 1973 publication called Lobby Art and Plazas where it was noted:
Thus much more than a building was at stake when planning began for the City Hall. I.M. Pei was awarded the commission in June 1966. He set out to discover the ‘personality’ of the city and how his building could best represent the people of Dallas, and he also took into consideration the growth in high-rise buildings owned by the banks and corporations that had appeared in downtown Dallas in the 1950s and early 1960s. He believed that the public sector – as represented by his city hall – needed to be symbolically strengthened to offset this concentration of commerce.66 To provide a visual response to the downtown towers, the City Hall was designed to be wider at the top than at the bottom, and thus appear to lean towards the city centre. It is 113 feet high and slopes forward at a 34 degree angle (fig.9). Later the architect would compare this relationship between the city government and Dallas citizens to that between his building and Moore’s sculpture on the plaza (fig.10).67 Pei chose a warm-coloured concrete designed to be in sympathy with the light tones of the dry Dallas region. The building is undoubtedly monumental and impressive, the effect having been enhanced by the clearance of rundown areas that originally fronted the site. These were replaced by a six-acre plaza that is about twice the size of Piazza San Marco in Venice. The building has been described as ‘serious ... one that ... seems to frown under the load of municipal responsibility it contains.’68 By the time of the dedication ceremony on 12 March 1978, however, any criticism of the building’s appearance was subsumed by civic pride.
The monumental bronze was placed centrally in front of the Hirshhorn Museum’s entrance and can be seen as providing a visual link to the other side of the Mall, the site of the National Gallery of Art’s West Wing. Close by, I.M. Pei’s East Wing to the National Gallery of Art opened in 1978, four years after the Hirshhorn Museum. At the time it was widely felt that Pei had successfully met the challenge of designing for the awkward triangular site and of relating the new building to its neoclassical West Wing. Director J. Carter Brown believed that Moore’s sculpture could ‘become architecture at civic scale.’79 Writing to the sculptor in 1973, Carter Brown described the importance of Pennsylvania Avenue as ‘the great symbolic way joining the White House with the Capitol and Supreme Court, thus linking the three branches of the Government. It is down this avenue that all State funerals, inaugural parades ... process, and a Presidential Commission is currently working on ways in which the ceremonial character of the avenue can be enhanced.’ He informed Moore that Pei’s new building at the axes of Pennsylvania Avenue and the Mall was positioned at a ‘pivotal point’.80
After some further consideration, Carter Brown and Pei agreed that, if enlarged and if the relative position of the two pieces was reversed and made the ‘mirror image’ of themselves, Moore’s Knife Edge Two Piece 1962–5 would be the right sculpture for the museum, and, if sited at the museum’s entrance on 4th Street, people could walk through it on their way into the gallery (fig.15).85
How to cite
Pauline Rose, ‘Henry Moore’s American Patrons and Public Commissions’, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www