Check Out the Huge New Sculpture Installed Outside VMFA


"Chloe" by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa. The work represents the second piece in the VMFA’s outdoor commissioning strategy.
  • "Chloe" by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa. The work represents the second piece in the VMFA’s outdoor commissioning strategy.

Workers at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts have just installed a massive new sculpture named "Chloe" in the Robins Sculpture Garden. The 24-foot-tall piece by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa is visible from both the Boulevard and Grove Avenue.

The museum commissioned the piece as part of its five-year strategic plan to add site-specific pieces to the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden, a popular spot for yoga and to just hang out on a sunny day (like today).

Although nobody was available today to answer Style questions about cost and other technical aspects, a horticulture specialist who will be filling in the marked off area that holds the work told us it looks especially nice in the evening sun, or the magic hour as some call it.

Jaume Plensa
  • Jaume Plensa

Plensa will be at the museum on Thursday, April 27, to unveil "Chloe" in the sculpture garden at 5:45 p.m. In the event of inclement weather, check museum’s calendar online for updates regarding the unveiling: Plensa will discuss his work in a public lecture at 6:30 pm in the Leslie Cheek Theater. Tickets for the artist talk are $8 ($5 for museum members).

The piece continues a long series of heads by the artist who was born in 1955 featuring young girls with eyes closed, whose "dreamlike qualities transform their surroundings," according to a release.

Here's more information from the news release:

“In today’s increasingly cynical culture, Jaume Plensa operates from a deeply held belief in shared human values,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA Director. “When you view Chloe, you will find a sense of calm and contemplation from any angle of this remarkable sculpture. This is an iconic work that defines the level of ambition we will seek in future commissions. We already are in discussions with another acclaimed sculptor for the next site-specific work, and we will continue to seek out leading national and international artists who will draw on their unique skills to create pieces that reflect our strategic vision for our outdoor collection. ..."

Although this piece is similar to Plensa’s "Echo" at the Seattle Art Museum and "Laura" at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., Chloe is the first of these heads to be cast in one piece on such a large scale. While those previous works feature visible seams where separately cast pieces were stacked on each other, "Chloe" will arrive with a smooth, unbroken surface.

In creating Chloe specifically for the museum grounds, Plensa also distorted its profile by compressing its depth. As a result, viewers will experience unexpected shifts in perspective as they move around the sculpture, and the marble dust coating the surface will reflect light -- adding a glittering, otherworldly dimension.

“Beauty is the big connection with all things and with all people, the vast place which contains all our memories. Something we carry anchored in us, an emotion,” said Plensa when asked about Chloe and its impact on future visitors to the sculpture garden.

“A sculpture of this magnitude in this outdoor venue offers yet another way for our visitors to engage with contemporary art,” said Dr. Michael Taylor, chief curator and deputy director for art and education at the museum. “We were honored to work with Jaume in commissioning Chloe, which we know will become a popular and iconic addition to our sculpture garden.”

In pursuing this commission, the museum ensured that the sculpture’s proportions complement the scale of the main museum building. Chloe’s site is centrally located at the end of the walkway leading from the main entrance into the garden. Plensa visited the museum 2014, and a museum delegation met with the artist a year later at his Barcelona, Spain, studio to learn about his process and to view a similar sculpture of about half the size of the proposed "Chloe."

In advance of the new installation, the museum moved the Untitled, Mission Clay Pittsburg Project -- a glazed ceramic sculpture by Jun Kaneko, an America born in 1965 in Japan, from that site to its new location by the main entrance.

And more about the artist, Jaume Plensa, from the release:

Over his 30-year career, Catalan artist Jaume Plensa has had exhibitions and commissions in more than 20 countries, from Japan to Brazil. He is perhaps best known in the United States for his 50-foot Crown Fountain, which has served as an iconic destination in Chicago’s Millennium Park for more than a decade. In summer 2010, Plensa gained critical recognition for his successful six-month installation in New York’s Madison Square Garden of a 44-foot sculpture of a 9-year-old girl, Echo, now installed permanently at the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Garden. More recently, Plensa exhibited his work at the 2015 Venice Biennale, as well as at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, which organized the comprehensive Jaume Plensa: The Human Landscape exhibition that traveled in 2016.