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Collections Standing Glass Fish

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Courtesy Walker Art Center
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Copyright retained by the artist

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Title
Standing Glass Fish
Artist
Frank Gehry
Date
1986
Dimensions
overall 264 × 168 × 102 inches
Materials
wood, glass, steel, silicone, plexiglass, rubber
Location
On view at the Walker Art Center, Cowles Conservatory, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Object Details

Type
Sculpture
Accession Number
1986.68
Inscriptions
N.A.; N.A.
Physical Description
a large fish constructed of glass,
Credit Line
Gift of Anne Pierce Rogers in honor of her grandchildren, Anne and Will Rogers and Lily Rogers Grant, 1986

artwork entry Frank Gehry, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 1998

Ever since visitors watched its miraculous birth in the Walker’s lobby—pieced together scale by scale by artisans for the exhibition of Frank Gehry’s work here in 1986—the Standing Glass Fish has become a beloved icon in the city’s cultural life. The 22-foot creature waited two years before being carefully disassembled and transported across the street to its permanent habitat: a fantastic lily pond among the Mexican fan palms and calamondin orange trees of the crystalline Cowles Conservatory.

One of the most innovative architects practicing today, Gehry is known for using ordinary materials such as raw plywood and chain-link fencing in his boldly artistic designs. The new Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the striking Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum here in Minneapolis are two recent examples of his unique architectural vision. The figure of the fish—a fond remembrance of the giant carp his Jewish grandmother would leave swimming in the bathtub each week to use for her Friday-night gefilte fish—has been a recurring motif in Gehry’s work. He has used it for his whimsical lamps, in the design for a conference room, and as a notational element in his architectural drawings.

Jenkins, Janet, ed. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 1998, no. 5.

© 1998 Walker Art Center

curriculum resource Frank Gehry, Standing Glass Fish (1986) Walker Art Center, 1998

“In Toronto, when I was very young, my grandmother and I used to go to Kensington, a Jewish market, on Thursday morning. She would buy a carp for gefilte fish. She’d put it in the bathtub, fill the bathtub with water, and this big black carp–two or three feet long–would swim around in the bathtub and I would play with it. I would stand up there and watch it turn and twist … and then she’d kill it and make gefilte fish and that was always sad and awful and ugly.”–Frank Gehry

American artist-architect Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish is installed in the Cowles Conservatory, suspended on invisible supports over a rectangular lily pond and surrounded by palm trees. Known for his innovative architectural projects that often include such ordinary materials as raw plywood and chain-link fencing, Gehry also experiments with nontraditional materials for his sculptural works. The body of the 22-foot Standing Glass Fish is constructed of glass and silicone, supported by a wooden armature with steel rods. Before finalizing his design for the sculpture, Gehry made a number of plexiglass models to study the flip of the fish’s tail, the characteristics of its eyes, and the shape of the scales. The fish is a personal symbol for Gehry–a fond remembrance of the live carp his grandmother would buy at the market and leave swimming in the bathtub each week before she prepared gefilte fish for the family meal. He likes the patterns made by fish scales and the fluid movement of fish in water. Gehry includes fish in his drawings for buildings, makes fish lamps, and has even designed buildings shaped like fish.

Text for Frank Gehry, Standing Glass Fish (1986), from the curriculum guide The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: A Garden for All Seasons, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center