Post image for Cupid’s Span marks the “Home Port of Eros”

Cupid’s Span marks the “Home Port of Eros”

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Cupid’s Span (©Dewet, GNU Free Documentation License 1.2)

Asked in 2002 to design a monumental sculpture for the waterfront’s Rincon Park, internationally-acclaimed artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen first considered San Francisco’s rep as “the home port of Eros.” From there it was a simple creative leap to Cupid’s bow and arrow.

Two stories tall and 135 feet wide, the whimsical fiberglass-and-steel sculpture has had its share of detractors — some of them vehement — and even more fans. But love it or hate it, Cupid’s Span accomplishes one of the major purposes of art: it makes you think.

Don’t just stare at it. Circle it up close and from a distance. Pay attention to the way it frames the sky, the Bay and the Bridge, offering them up like polished works of art. At one moment Cupid’s Span looks like a giant’s discarded plaything, but then the next it resembles a sailboat, and in the blink of an eye it becomes a bridge to nowhere … or everywhere. No wonder Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco!

Tip: For another take on Cupid’s Span, visit late at night. And no matter when you come, be sure check out the whimsical bronze sea creatures perched on the lower wall.

Did You Know: Born in 1929, Oldenburg became known in the 1960s for his whimsical and sometimes startling sculptures — an intrinsic part of the Pop Art movement. He collaborated with van Bruggen on numerous large-scale sculptures from 1976 until her death in 2009  (they married in 1977).  Among their well-known works are Saw, Sawing (Tokyo); Inverted Collar and Tie (Frankfurt am Main); and Dropped Bowl with Scattered Slices and Peels (Miami).

The SF Waterfront Editors Recommend…

Make it Pop!: Activities and Adventures in Pop Art—Fun and accessible, Pop Art can be a great way to get children interested in art. This delightful book, geared to grades 5-8, introduces six major Pop artists (Lichtenstein, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Johns, Oldenburg, Segal), explains their creative techniques, and invites young readers to examine one of their well-known works and answer questions such as “How do you think the artist used his brush?” As School Library Journal noted, the author then “suggests projects that imitate the artists’ methods. Most of the required materials can be found around the house or are readily available at a craft store, and written instructions for each project are easy to follow. The text is printed in a variety of fonts on brightly colored pages… Most of the illustrations are color photographs of art projects made by children and the author rather than pictures of the artists’ works.” About $12. Buy Make it Pop!

Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen: Sculpture by the Way—The collaboration of these two arists resulted in more than 40 large-scale works in various parts of the world. This lavishly-illustrated retrospective, published in association with the Castello di Rivoli, features their works in chronological order. In the section devoted to large-scale projects, 22 works are examined and illustrated with drawings, models, and photographs. This long-awaited monograph includes an interview with the artists, an anthology of texts, a bio-bibliography, and two never-before-seen works: Popagesy and Three Way Plug. About $60.  Buy Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen: Sculpture by the Way.

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