Richard Serra


Richard Serra

Since the early 1980s, huge rusty pieces of iron have sometimes appeared on the streets and squares of European and American cities. Now the townspeople are already used to them, but a quarter of a century ago, many did not perceive such an aesthetic and even threatened to kill the artist who came up with decorating their cities with giant steel blocks.

He was born in San Francisco, and there, apparently, he acquired a taste for everything gigantic. Richard’s father, a native of Spain, worked in a shipyard, and at the age of four, the boy saw the launch of the ship that Serra Sr was building. The huge bulk of the ship, like a skyscraper collapsed on its side, made an indelible impression on the future artist.

Drawings thrown away in the river, bird flying in the face

Thanks to his talented drawings, he entered the Yale School of Art, where he studied painting and interacted with famous artists. Once Serra could quit the institute for bullying the master of modern art Robert Rauschenberg. The young artist placed a box in front of Rauschenberg, opening it, the master found himself nose to nose with an angry clucking bird. Rauschenberg was not offended by the prankster, but the harsh administration of the school intended to expel him, and only then relented and decided to just suspend him from school for two weeks.

Richard Serra

How did Serra come to sculpture and installation? In his youth, to pay for college, he worked in a steel mill, where he became familiar with materials such as steel and lead. After Yale, he went to Europe, where for the first time he was able to see live works of classical art. He did not like Michelangelo: “too many steroids, too Schwarzenegger-like”, but Velazquez’s” Meninas ” made such an impression on him that Serra threw all his institute paintings into the Arno River in Florence.

He says that it was thanks to “Meninas” that he came to the idea that the viewer is an extension of a work of art, and this idea is still one of the main ones in his work. According to him, a painting does not transform space as much as a sculpture, and therefore he became interested in creating three-dimensional objects.

The Tilted Arc

Richard Serra

In the 1980s, the radical abstractionism embodied in Serra’s huge steel sculpture “The Tilted Arc” caused a storm of protests among New Yorkers. Serra installed it on a Manhattan square in 1981 and stood there for eight years until it was removed under the onslaught of the public. In 1985, a jury ruled that the Serra sculpture should be destroyed. The artist filed a counterclaim, but he could not save his creation, and in 1989 it was cut into three parts and taken to a New York warehouse. During the eight years that the arc stood on the square, it was never tired of being covered with insults. Once, some opponents of the sculpture covered its entire surface with posters with images of a Vietnamese being shot in the head and threats of “Kill Serra”.


According to Serra, the main function of art is to help people think and see in new ways. He says that art should not be utilitarian, and therefore does not like when architects are equated with artists. Serra laments the new museums that architects such as Frank Gehry are building. He claims that their buildings become more important in the eyes of critics and the public than the works of art in these museums.

Children are very fond of Serra’s sculptures: they are fascinated by their gigantic size and interesting shapes.

Nevertheless, the new museums of Serra are very popular. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, gave him a large room, where Serra placed one of the world’s largest installations. Once, “man of steel” brought three of his installations (weighing more than 300 tons) to London. In order to drag the hulks into the building, it was necessary to destroy the wall. In another building of the Gagosian Gallery, Serra’s graphic works are displayed.

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