Claes Oldenburg: Paint Torch

Exhibition Info
Lenfest Plaza
The centerpiece of Lenfest Plaza, Claes Oldenburg's 51-foot "Paint Torch" honors the act of painting

Installed in August 2011 at a daring 60-degree diagonal position, the 51-feet high Paint Torch sculpture by Claes Oldenburg is the centerpiece of Lenfest Plaza and honors the act of painting—from the classical masters in PAFA’s museum to the students in PAFA’s School of Fine ArtsPaint Torch stands on the point of its handle in a gravity-defying gesture. Nearby on the plaza floor is a six-foot-high “glob” of paint, part of which the brush has lifted into the sky in a depiction of the act of painting a picture. The “glob” and "blip” at the tip of the brush are both illuminated from within at night.

The sculpture protrudes into the space of Broad Street, visible against the background of City Hall, as a beckoning gesture to enter the Plaza and explore all that PAFA has to offer.

PAFA commissioned Oldenburg to create the new work, which celebrates the spirit of PAFA. The monumental paintbrush points to the growth and vitality of American art, while celebrating a milestone in PAFA’s history, America’s first school of fine arts and museum, founded in 1805. Paint Torch honors the act of painting, and also, in its spare but voluptuous form, the practice of sculpture. Its form also doubles as a torch and a symbol of liberty in homage to the city’s historical significance as the birthplace of America.

Overseeing the installation was artist Claes Oldenburg, Bill Kreysler, who fabricated the Paint Torch (as well as 16 other Oldenburg sculptures), and Jen Lewin, the artist who collaborated with Claes Oldenburg to engineer and illuminate the Paint Torch.

Installation Details

Claes Oldenburg, Paint Torch (2011)

  • Height from the ground: 50' 11”
  • Total length of the piece: 93’ 9/16”
  • Length of bristles: 24’
  • Diameter of sculpture where it meets the ground: Paintbrush handle diameter is 1’3 7/18”, handle to glob center distance is 14’1 ½”
  • Weight of total sculpture: 12,000 lbs
  • Materials: steel, Fiberglas, urethane, LED lighting
  • Number of trucks required to ship the piece: 2
  • Distance it traveled to get here: from California to Pennsylvania, approximately 2,900 miles
  • Height of glob: 5’ 11 ¾”
  • Diameter of glob: 6’ ¾”
  • Height when it breaks the plane of the Hamilton Building: 19’
  • Distance that it extends over Broad Street sidewalk: 11’-11”
  • Depth of foundation: 36’