Richard Lippold


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Sculptor. Admired by connoisseurs and public alike, his elegant hanging sculptures float like geometric gossamer in the spaces to which they are tethered. Fabricated from metallic wire and/or thin rods, they orchestrate large volumes with a minimum of physical bulk. Most of his signature installations are coated with shiny metallic substances, even gold, to provide alluring shimmer. He sometimes arranged for his works to be displayed against black or dark backgrounds to enhance the glamour of their weblike patterns. Lippold's unique variation on constructivist practice emerged in the late 1940s and later won many commissions from public and commercial institutions as well as museums. Born in Milwaukee, he attended the University of Chicago before transferring to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After earning a BFA in industrial design in 1937, he worked in that field in Chicago and Milwaukee. In 1941 he moved to Ann Arbor to teach at the University of Michigan. There he began to make sculptures from wire and found metal. In 1944 he relocated to New York and, three years later, produced the first of his characteristic lyrical hanging sculptures. His reputation was secured in 1950, when the Museum of Modern Art purchased the ten-foot-tall Variation Number 7: Full Moon (1949–50), featuring pyramidal and cubic forms interpenetrating as their edges pass through implied volumes. The first of many works of art commissioned for the new Lincoln Center, Orpheus and Apollo (1961–62), a 190-foot tumble of shimmering blades above the Grand Promenade at Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall, and Flight (1963) for the Pan Am (now MetLife) Building, both in New York, number among numerous pieces designed for specific interiors. His fewer outdoor sculptures include Ad Astra (1976), a 115-foot-tall double spire in front of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. At the end of his life, he was designing a memorial to victims of the 2001 World Trade Center calamity. He died in a hospital in Roslyn, not far from his north-shore Long Island residence in Lattingtown, where he had lived since 1955.

Subjects: Art.

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