The Rapidian

Forty years later, celebrated Grand Rapids sculpture returns to public view downtown

Clement Meadmore's "Split Ring' came to town in 1973 for exhibition 'Sculpture Off the Pedestal"
"Split Ring," by sculpture Clement Meadmore is now on display at 300 Ottawa, the office of the Grand Rapids Symphony, downtown.

"Split Ring," by sculpture Clement Meadmore is now on display at 300 Ottawa, the office of the Grand Rapids Symphony, downtown. /Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk | Grand Rapids Symphony

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'Sculpture Off the Pedestal'

Organized by the Women's Committee of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the landmark exhibition, "Sculpture Off the Pedestal," brought 12 works of public sculpture by young and emerging artists such as Mark di Suvero. Opened in September 1973, the 11-month long exhibition of outdoor art put Grand Rapids in the spotlight of the art world.

"Split Ring" came to Grand Rapids in 1973 for the landmark exhibition, "Sculpture Off the Pedestal."

"Split Ring" came to Grand Rapids in 1973 for the landmark exhibition, "Sculpture Off the Pedestal." /Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk | Grand Rapids Symphony

A glimpse of Alexander Calder’s “La Grande Vitesse” can be seen through the center of Clement Meadmore’s “Split Ring.”

A glimpse of Alexander Calder’s “La Grande Vitesse” can be seen through the center of Clement Meadmore’s “Split Ring.” /Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk | Grand Rapids Symphony

A seminal work of public art is back home in downtown Grand Rapids.

Alhough "Split Ring" by contemporary sculptor Clement Meadmore never really left.

A landmark exhibition of outdoor public art called "Sculpture Off the Pedestal" brought 12 large-scale works of sculpture to downtown Grand Rapids in 1973.

The 4,000-pound sculpture made of Corten steel originally was installed outdoors on Ottawa Avenue south of Michigan Street, where it spent 11 months just across the street from Alexander Calder’s “La Grande Vitesse.”

For many years afterward, "Split Ring" was located inside Woodland Mall. Today, it’s back downtown once more at 300 Ottawa Avenue.

Philanthropists and art patrons Dan and Pamella DeVos acquired "Split Ring" and returned the work to its original site during the exhibition organized by the Women’s Committee of the Grand Rapids Art Museum that opened in September 1973.

“Pam and I are delighted to be able to bring Meadmore’s wonderful sculpture back downtown, to a prime location right across from the Calder, and to honor the pioneering work of the Women’s Committee,” said Dan DeVos. “The timing coincides with significant renovations to 300 Ottawa, and it all came together perfectly.”

DP Fox Ventures, the holding company of Dan and Pamella DeVos, purchased the former Frey Building as well as the Chase Building at 200 Ottawa Ave. NW in 1998. Today, 300 Ottawa is the office of the Grand Rapids Symphony as well as other offices.

Recently completed renovations at the building - including the addition of a dramatic two-story lobby and updates to the building’s entrances and exterior facades - have been capped by the return and installation of "Split Ring," one of 12 works of public art by artists including Mark di Suvero that were part of "Sculpture Off the Pedestal."

“As a city, we embrace the value and importance of public art,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “The return of this beautiful sculpture to its original location further enhances our downtown and continues our strong tradition of providing access to art for everyone.”

Clement Meadmore, a native of Australia who spent most of his life in the United States before his death in 2005, began his career as a furniture designer and evolved into a sculptor. His work in the 1960s, part of the minimalist school of sculpture that thrived in the 1960s and 1970s, emphasized clean lines and basic shapes.

"Split Ring" has been a familiar feature of Woodland Mall’s indoor landscape for more than four decades in Kentwood.

“We are thrilled that the 'Split Ring' sculpture will remain in the local Grand Rapids community,” said Tony DeLuccia, general manager of Woodland Mall. “We hope that area residents will enjoy and appreciate its beauty as Woodland Mall shoppers have over the years.”

During renovations at 300 Ottawa Avenue, which pay tribute to the building’s mid-century origins, the opportunity arose for DP Fox Ventures to acquire the sculpture that was created just three years before the building opened.

Originally known as the Frey Building, the office building at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW was built by Edward Frey to serve as an office building supporting operations at the former Union Bank Building, now the Chase Building, at 200 Ottawa Avenue.

David Frey, son of Edward Frey, said he’s pleased to see "Split Ring" back on public view in downtown Grand Rapids.

“There is growing recognition of the role of public art in the urban experience, and this is another way in which this great Midwestern city is distinguishing itself,” Frey said. “Public art brings intellectual and visual stimulation to an area. It's provocative, and it adds variety and energy."

"Public art is an investment, in a very real way, in the economic development of a city," Frey added.

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