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Split Button

Split Button, 1981, Painted Aluminum
Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen (Swedish-American & Dutch-American)

Gross Area (sq. ft.): 192" diameter, Painted Aluminum, White. 2,900 lbs.

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The Split Button was installed in 1981 on a small plaza before the entrance to the Van Pelt Library, across from a statue of Benjamin Franklin. It was created by Swedish-American artist Claes Oldenburg and his wife, Coosje van Bruggen. This artistic team has to date executed more than forty large-scale projects in various urban surroundings in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

Internationally renowned for his Pop Art installations, Oldenburg playfully executes public sculptures of everyday objects in monumental scale. Split Button’s four holes recall Philadelphia founder William Penn’s design for laying out the center of the city around four symmetrically placed parks. The Button, as it is popularly called, measures 16’ in diameter, weighs over 5000 pounds, and today serves as an unofficial central landmark and focal point of Penn’s campus. Children and adults alike can always be found popping out of the sculpture’s holes and posing for a picture. A legend exists that attributes Split Button to the university’s founder, Benjamin Franklin. According to the legend, a button popped off the seated Franklin sculpture’s vest and rolled across the University’s Locust Walk. It eventually came to a stop and split into two – hence becoming today’s sculpture.

Location: Blanche Levy Park at Van Pelt Library, Philadelphia PA

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