In the coming months, a public sculpture created for the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair, hidden for nearly thirty years, will mark its official homecoming in City Park New Orleans. Following the close of the Fair in 1984, the fountain sculpture, created by world-renowned avant-garde artist Lynda Benglis, sat hidden for decades in a former sewage treatment plant in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner. With the permission of The City of Kenner, which owns the sculpture, Benglis personally undertook and supervised the complete restoration of the work in the summer of 2014. In the coming months, the sculpture will return to public view in City Park’s “Big Lake,” underwritten by The Helis Foundation.
“The Helis Foundation is honored to be a part of bringing Lynda Benglis’ ‘The Wave’ back to public view,” said David Kerstein, President of The Helis Foundation. “We are proud of the work we have done with The City of Kenner and City Park New Orleans to ensure that this significant and influential work of art by one of Louisiana’s most important artists is available for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
Lynda Benglis was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana and graduated cum laude in art from Newcomb College, Tulane University. Benglis rose to prominence in the 1970s New York art world and continues to be a force internationally. The 17 ½-foot “The Wave” was the first of her sculptures to function as a fountain, and it was the beginning of an idea that she has continued to explore in the ensuing three decades. In the spring of 2015, a survey of Benglis’ work at the prestigious Storm King Art Center in New York will feature her fountains.
“The Wave” suffered years of neglect that led to surface damage and the loss of a large section of the base. In the summer of 2014, the piece was returned to Modern Art Foundry in New York where Benglis originally created and cast the work. There, Benglis worked with 1983/84 team member, Bob Spring, and his son, Jeffrey, present director of Modern Art Foundry, to pour a new base, restore the original patina, and repair the internal plumbing of the fountain.
“It’s a wonderful thing to have happened,” the artist told The Art Newspaper in December while in Miami Beach at the 2014 international art fair Art Basel. “It was a pain in my heart for almost 30 years, to have it leave and not be shown again. I never stopped looking for the work, and am so happy to have found it.”
In 2014, the City of Kenner worked closely with the artist and The Helis Foundation to negotiate a lease agreement to display the work publicly for four years in City Park New Orleans.
“We are very excited in Kenner to know the sculpture is now back in pristine condition and ready to be viewed and appreciated by the public,” Kenner Mayor Michael Yenni said.