Ta-da! 40-foot 'Big Bling' sculpture on the Schuylkill now has its bling

After a year looming over New York City’s Madison Square Park, Martin Puryear’s very big Big Bling has traveled to Philadelphia for a six-month stay north of the Girard Avenue Bridge on a bank of the Schuylkill.

The largest sculpture Puryear has created, the 40-foot-tall Big Bling is being installed this week on the east side of the river along Kelly Drive.

Martin Puryear’s “Big Bling” (2016), rising above Madison Square Park, New York City. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery © Martin Puryear.

The disassembled sculpture arrived Monday morning on flatbed trucks, and the pieces were hoisted by crane and laid down on the wet grass. Workers then drilled holes to anchor the assembled sculpture to an already-laid concrete slab.

By Tuesday, the sculpture was beginning to take shape, as cranes and forklifts hefted sections into place.

Day Two of the installation of sculptor Martin Puryear’s 40-foot-tall “Big Bling” along Kelly Drive.(JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer)

Big Bling, an enthralling combination of animal forms and abstraction that seems to visually represent something familiar that you just can’t quite place, is made up of multiple sections of pressure-treated laminated timbers, plywood, chain-link fence, fiberglass, and, of course, gold leaf.

Day Two of the installation of sculptor Martin Puryear’s 40-foot-tall “Big Bling” along Kelly Drive, ( JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer)

BB will remain in Philadelphia for six months, thanks to a first-time collaboration between Philadelphia’s Association for Public Art and the Madison Square Park Conservancy, which commissioned the piece.

Day Two of the installation of sculptor Martin Puryear’s 40-foot-tall “Big Bling” along Kelly Drive, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. ( JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer)

The Philadelphia association, formerly known as the Fairmount Park Art Association, commissioned an earlier Puryear work, Pavilion in the Trees, which was permanently installed in Fairmount Park in 1993 on the west side of the river, almost directly across from Big Bling — but,  not surprisingly, hidden by  trees.

As of Wednesday afternoon, workers had attached Big Bling’s gold leaf shackle, and the project was nearing completion

Workers lift gold leaf shackle Wednesday for the installation of sculptor Martin Puryear’s “Big Bling” on the bank of the Schuylkill River. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Workers prepare to lift gold leaf shackle for the installation of “Big Bling.” (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
And up it goes: Workers lift gold leaf shackle Wednesday for the installation of sculptor Martin Puryear’s 40-foot-tall “Big Bling” along Kelly Drive. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)

 

Installation of sculptor Martin Puryear’s 40-foot-tall Big Bling along the bank of the Schuylkill River along Kelly Drive. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)

Installation begins on sculptor Martin Puryear’s 40-foot-tall “Big Bling” along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia, PA on May 22, 2017. Work will continue on the piece into Wednesday. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Installation begins Monday morning on sculptor Martin Puryear’s 40-foot-tall “Big Bling” along Kelly Drive. Work will continue into Wednesday. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Installation begins on sculptor Martin Puryear’s 40-foot-tall Big Bling along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia, PA on May 22, 2017. Work will continue on the piece into Wednesday. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer