What's big-name art doing in a suburban Philadelphia hospital?
December 12, 2012By Peter Crimmins
Photos by Emma Lee, for NewsWorks
The Einstein Medical Center just opened in Montgomery County in September and, like many hospitals, its walls are decorated with calm, pastoral pictures. Trees, water, animals, even old barns and fields reflecting the rural landscape just outside the hospital's soaring atrium windows.
The Sol LeWitt installation looks nothing like that.
"In the corridor between the two major entrances, we did want something more playful," CEO Barry Freedman said. "Something Bright. Uplifting, cheerful. But aesthetically pleasing and something that reflected boldness."
A 140-foot corridor connecting the North and South entrances at the hospital's new campus in Norriton is painted floor to ceiling with rectangular fields of primary and secondary colors. The bright blocks of red, blue, yellow are painted over with intersecting lines that almost resemble the outlines of a cube, but not quite.
LeWitt was a groundbreaking conceptual artist who designed wall drawings, which were more like architectural plans than drawings. He did not mark lines on paper, but rather invented sets of instructions from which his drawings could be realized. There are more than 1,200 of these conceptual artworks. The one at Einstein is number 972.
LeWitt also designed, by special invitation, the flower garden on the western slope of the Philadelphia Museum of Art grounds.
The artist died in 2007. In 2008, a huge retrospective of his wall drawings opened at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which will remain on view until 2033. That is where Freedman first encounted LeWitt's work. By a serendipitous series of events, Freedman met someone who knew someone associated with the LeWitt estate, and brokered a similar, 25-year loan of a wall drawing.
The decision about which concept to loan the hospital was left to Anthony Sansotta, artistic director of the LeWitt estate.
"It was done originally on different-sized walls, but uses the same matrix for the development of this kind of rectangular form," said Sonsaotta. "I felt that I could use the playfulness of the initial idea and transform it into the spaces we were given at Einstein."
Freedman said he could not use hospital funds to buy fine art. The 25-year loan is courtesy of the LeWitt estate. After that, the wall will be painted over. But for a quarter-century, the hospital corridor will be the only official realization in the world of "Wall Drawing Number 972."