It took a week, but sculptor Martin Puryear’s steel-mesh-encased Big Bling, a 40-foot-tall tower of evocative power, has been completely installed on the Kelly Drive side of the Schuylkill River, north of the Girard Avenue Bridge. The sod will be restored at the site this week.
Penny Balkin Bach, executive director and chief curator of the Association for Public Art, said installation went smoothly – largely because the crew that installed the piece, which arrived in sections on flatbed trucks the morning of May 22, was the same crew that dismantled the piece in New York City. “They understood the puzzle,” she said.
Big Bling rises over the river, dwarfing most trees, and its gilded “shackle” – high up on its headlike top – glitters in the late afternoon sun. BB was commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy, and it graced the park, between E. 23rd and 26th Streets in Manhattan, for a year. The association partnered with Madison Square to bring the piece to Philadelphia for six months; it will most likely return to Puryear’s studio when its stay here is completed.
Bach said that the piece will be formally welcomed at a 4:30 p.m. ceremony June 8. At that time, Puryear, whose Pavilion in the Trees was installed almost directly across the river in 1993, will receive the association’s Medal of Honor. The medal is “given to people whose work is significant in Philadelphia and elsewhere in art and civic life,” said Bach.