An artist that loves balls has created a ginormous, 24-ton blue sphere for the lobby of 550 Madison Ave.
Resembling the Earth and made from Brazilian quartzite known as Azul do Macaubas, the nearly 8-foot-round sphere was sculpted by the German Polish artist, Alicja Kwade from a much larger hunk.
It now hangs from the office building’s arched entry by 10 polished stainless-steel chains attached to stainless-steel belt that girdles the globe.
The pendulous orb, known as “Solid Sky” is suspended just 12 feet above the floor in a space where the ceiling soars to 65 feet.
“This rock is the result of a metamorphosis that took place over 1 billion years ago,” said Kwade in a statement. “[It] was created under great pressure and elevated temperatures. A metamorphosis always has something metaphysical and magical about it. Due to the blue color of the stone, the ball appears like planet Earth – very fragile and small, in comparison to the entirety of the universe. It is an ambitious and emotional project, taking place on one of the most famous streets in the world.”
The former Sony building is known for its Chippendale-like roof and circular cutout, as well as other round and arched motifs, including the giant arched window in its lobby entrance from Madison Avenue.
Now owned by Olayan and RXR Realty, and in hopes of attracting tenants, the building designed in 1984 by Philip Johnson and John Burgee has undergone an entire reboot by Gensler architects as well as a reinvention of its public garden designed by Snøhetta.
In 2018, Kwade planted a blue ball half the size in the forest of Drenthe, Netherlands, also calling it “SolidSky.”
Kwade is no stranger to Gotham art aficionados, as her 15-foot-tall installation of nine balls held by interlocking steel frames, known as ParaPivot, was on the Roof Garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2019.
“I first saw her stone globes at her 2019 Metropolitan Museum exhibition and, to my eye, she created a whole solar system with their differing colors and arrangements,” said Mary Ann Tighe, CEO of CBRE’s tri-state region, which represents the building.
Last year, Kwade carved dozens of white balls and placed them on a white stairway in Neuss, Germany and in the past has explored mirrors.
The art consultant who chose the work for 550 Madison, Alex Toledano, President of VISTO, said Kwade’s work “extends the building’s tradition of showcasing renowned female artists’ work,” which have included Dorothea Rockburne murals (which remain), and Evelyn Longman’s “Golden Boy” which was placed by then-owner AT&T in the same space.
“I love the piece because it represents so many things: the global nature of business, the weight of responsibility we bear for our planet, Philip Johnson’s Pantheon-inspired motif (seen on the floor) of the circle, both the shape and its outline, the oculus at the top of the Pantheon, the void in the Chippendale crown of 550,” Tighe said. “And then, it is just a gorgeous stone, a jewel, that means even on a cloudy day the sky is blue in 550.”
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