The Lost Squares

In Modern Magazine’s article, “Lost and Found”, David Hay explores the history of a legendary Stefan Knapp mural. The article explains that in 1963, Polish born artist Stefan Knapp installed a mural on the side of an Alexander’s department store in New York city. This installation was revolutionary both because of the process and because no one had ever installed a sculpture piece that was quite that large in an urban area. The installation  consisted of more than four hundred square panels that each had various colored domes and rings on them. Paul Goldberg, a well known architecture critic, described them as “…a billboard filled with eyeballs or hubcaps or salad bowls.”

The process of making each panel differed from any other process that had been done at that time. Instead of mounting enamel on traditional copper, Knapp found a way to mount it on zero carbon steel. His wife described that his process began with cleaning the steel chemically, washing it and then spraying it with a cobalt enamel group coat. He would then fire the piece and then coat it with white enamel. Knapp’s ability to use steel added an extra durability that enabled him to experiment with scale.

The article continues to explain that after years of partnership with Alexander’s the department store declared bankruptcy in 1992 and their buildings, along with Knapp’s murals were on their way to the dump. However, a building salvage company known as Olde Good Things were able to secure a large number of the panels. Throughout the years, people have been on the hunt for the remaining squares. Some have been purchased by private museum dealers and collectors but the majority remain on display in the Olde Good things building with the price tag of $26,500.

I think this article was very interesting because Knapp’s mural was not only groundbreaking in the 1960’s but it continues to live on today. In a sense, these individual squares that made up a much larger work of art have become an interactive piece. What was once stationary on the side of the building, can now be found in smaller pieces in multiple locations. People given these squares new life and have in turn created a new work of art.



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