The 2000 Sculpture

John Hill
6. September 2021
Walter De Maria, The 2000 Sculpture, 1992. Plaster and hydrocal. Walter A. Bechtler Stiftung, Ausstellungsansicht / Installation view Kunsthaus Zürich 2021. (Photo: Franca Candrian, Kunsthaus Zürich, © Estate of Walter De Maria)

Walter de Maria's The 2000 Sculpture — a horizontal sculpture made up of 2,000 white plaster rods — is back on display at the Kunsthaus Zürich, in the large column-free gallery it was created for nearly thirty years ago.

The current restaging of The 2000 Sculpture is the artwork's third display at the Kunsthaus Zürich, following its inaugural installation in 1992 and a second display in 1999/2000. The current display of the sculpture overlaps with the opening of David Chipperfield's extension to the museum on October 9th. Although the sculpture was created by de Maria specifically for a 1958 gallery capped by a large skylight (designed by the Pfister brothers), it is owned by the Walter A. Bechtler Foundation and is on loan to the Kunsthaus Zurich.

Walter De Maria, The 2000 Sculpture, 1992. Plaster and hydrocal. Walter A. Bechtler Stiftung, Ausstellungsansicht / Installation view Kunsthaus Zürich 2021. (Photo: Franca Candrian, Kunsthaus Zürich, © Estate of Walter De Maria)

The rectilinear space, purportedly the largest column-free gallery in Switzerland at the time of the artwork's creation, allows for a sculpture of 500 square meters, with the 2,000 rods arranged in 20 rows of 100 each. Although an overall view, as in the above photograph, gives the impression that each rod is identical to the rest, there are three shapes: with five, seven and nine edges. According to a press release from the Kunsthaus Zürich, the arrangement of the rods (50 cm long and 18 cm high) "follows a specific rhythm: 5–7–9–7–5–5–7–9–7–5," which results in a "kind of herringbone pattern, with the rods seeming to move towards or away from the viewer, depending on where they are standing."

Walter De Maria, The 2000 Sculpture, 1992. Plaster and hydrocal. Walter A. Bechtler Stiftung, Ausstellungsansicht / Installation view Kunsthaus Zürich 2021. (Photo: Franca Candrian, Kunsthaus Zürich, © Estate of Walter De Maria)

The position of the viewer in The 2000 Sculpture seems particularly important to this writer, who lives in New York City, home to two permanent room-size installations by de Maria: The Broken Kilometer and The New York Earth Room (both were commissioned by the Dia Art Foundation and are reopening to the public on September 8, 2021, after pandemic closures). These two NYC installations have fixed vantage points — at the end of a large loft and in a narrow hall behind a guardrail, respectively — but the large gallery in Zürich enables visitors to walk around the artwork, creating "a tension between predictable regularity and individual perception," per the museum — a tension heightened by the variability of the naturally lit space.

Walter De Maria, The 2000 Sculpture, 1992. Plaster and hydrocal. Walter A. Bechtler Stiftung, Ausstellungsansicht / Installation view Kunsthaus Zürich 2021. (Photo: Franca Candrian, Kunsthaus Zürich, © Estate of Walter De Maria)
Walter De Maria's The 2000 Sculpture is on display at the Kunsthaus Zürich from August 27, 2021, until February 20, 2022.

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