Collection The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
Commissioned May 1992, by The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art
Gift of the Sosland family
Aluminum and fiber-reinforced plastic; painted with polyurethane enamel
Four shuttlecocks, each 17 ft. 11 in. (5. 5 m) high x 15 ft. 1 in. (4.6 m) crown diameter and 4 ft. (1.2 m) nose cone diameter, sited in different positions on the grounds of the museum
Installed June 23-July 1, 1994
Inaugurated July 6, 1994
Asked to create a large-scale project integrated into the setting of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, we traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1991, prepared to transform the vast, imposing lawn that stretches before the massive neoclassical facade of the museum. While visiting the galleries soon after our arrival, Coosje was attracted to the headdresses worn by Native Americans in a painting by Frederic Remington, which led to our initial concept of large feathers scattered over the lawn as if dropped from the wing of a huge passing bird. As we proceeded to research the site, we came across an aerial photograph of the museum grounds that reminded us of the layout of a tennis court. We imagined the museum building as a net, with balls distributed over the grounds, but soon determined that the ball shape would be too repetitive. What if, as Coosje suggested, feathers were combined with the ball form to become a shuttlecock, a lyrical object, with the ability to float, spin, fly, and land in many different ways? We proposed three 17-foot-high shuttlecock sculptures for the lawn, each in a different position. Although their placement appeared to be random, the shuttlecocks were actually located at strategic points that would bring the far reaches of the site together. A fourth shuttlecock, in an inverted position reminiscent of a tepee, "landed" on the other side of the museum.
Instantly, a heated controversy arose over the suitability of sculptures based on such a mundane object as a shuttlecock for one of the city’s most prestigious sites. Defending the project, the museum's staff offered to give
a course in art history, showing that common subjects have a long tradition, to members of the Parks and Recreation Department who had objected to the sculpture, but was rebuffed by the department's president. The controversy
was fanned by the city's newspaper, the Kansas City Star, with hostile editorials and cartoons. Donors to the project and the museum staff stood firm, however, and the Shuttlecocks were installed without incident.