In 1994, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art installed the world’s largest shuttlecocks in its Sculpture Park. Designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, a husband-and-wife artist team, the four shuttlecocks stand at 18-feet tall and are made out of aluminum, fiberglass, and reinforced plastic. The duo incorporated the museum grounds into the design by imagining the neoclassical building as a badminton net and scattering the birdies across the manicured lawn. Oldenburg and van Bruggen’s sculptures fueled controversy. Critics believed that the shuttlecocks–mundane objects–had no place in an art museum. Today, the shuttlecocks are the Nelson-Atkins Museum’s largest permanent installation.
The once-controversial modern art pieces are now ingrained into Kansas City’s fabric. The shuttlecocks are often featured on t-shirts, decals, billboards, and tourist advertisements, and have become a cultural symbol recognized by Kansas Citians, Missourians, and Midwesterners. The sculptures not only represent a world-renowned art institution, but they also embody a sense of hometown pride.
Categories: Arts & Culture
Creator: Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen
Subject: Art museums
Contributing Institution: Springfield-Greene County Library District
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Region: Kansas City Metro
Photographer: Ellie Burke
Photograph Date: 2021