By Doug MacCash, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on July 28, 2011 at 11:38 AM, updated July 28, 2011 at 3:38 PM
Why did the "Loup Garou" cross the road?
In late June, Peter Lundberg’s 207,000-pound, 33-ft.-tall concrete sculpture “Loup Garou” was moved from its fractured base in front of the University of New Orleans art department, to a sturdy new platform in a grove of magnolia and mimosa trees, just yards away, across Harwood Drive. The cost of the relocation was $75,000.
Lundberg is a Vermont-based sculptor, who has placed similarly gigantic concrete casings around the U.S., as well as in Germany and China. In 2006 he and sculptor Michael Manjarris founded Sculpture for New Orleans, an altruistic organization that has placed public artworks across the city. “Loup Garou,” named for the French Louisiana werewolf myth, is Lundberg’s personal contribution to the effort. Lundberg values "Loup Garou" at $150,000. It is on loan to UNO.
Crossing the road was the last leg of an eventful and expensive journey for what is probably New Orleans’ most massive artwork.
In late December 2009, Lundberg dug a swimming-pool-sized hole in the yard behind a warehouse in the Bywater neighborhood. He filled the rough shape with tons of tangled reinforcing rods, tires, boulders and other debris, plus a sea of concrete. An industrial crane pried the hardened mass from the earth like an enormous fossil and Lundberg’s behemoth was born. The original title of the sculpture was “Mississippi Gateway,” but Lundberg changed the name when he learned of the Louisiana werewolf. The new title fit better with his custom of naming his sculpture after mythological creatures. The mammoth cost $30,000 to create Lundberg said, paid for by an anonymous benefactor.
In May 2010, a small crowd gathering in the rain to watch a towering crane attempt to place the sculpture, then titled “Mississippi Passage” upright in a meadow beside the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. But the massive shape refused to settle evenly on the soggy ground, so the104-ton sculpture was plopped horizontally on the lawn, where it lay for months. The cost to move the sculpture was $20,000, Lundberg said; also paid for by an anonymous benefactor.
Sometime after, Lundberg says he appealed to UNO art professor Christopher Saucedo to allow him to move the “Loup Garou” to the Lakefront campus. Saucedo welcomed Lundberg’s loan of the commanding artwork.
In January 2011, “Loup Garou” was lowered onto a custom-made concrete pad near the art department building. The cost to move the sculpture to UNO was $20,000. Lundberg said he paid for the relocation himself.
But the move did not end smoothly. The crushingly heavy sculpture cracked the concrete base and some onlookers believed the three-story artwork could become unbalanced and fall. Harwood Drive was closed and “Loup Garou” was caged with caution tape. Susan Krantz, dean of UNO’s College of Liberal Arts explained the need to relocate the sculpture in a July 5 email.
“Independent site engineers determined that the sculpture's original placement could prove unstable because of the severe weather in the area on occasion and because the land on which it sat could shift,” Krantz wrote. “It was determined that we would have to: 1 -- get permission to lie it down until it could be removed to a new locale entirely; 2 -- ask the artist to remove it and pay for the removal (at $20,000), or 3 -- erect another base close by and move the sculpture. For us at UNO, it was an easy decision-we had to find a way to satisfy the engineers and keep the sculpture at UNO.”
In late June, “Loup Garou” was moved into its new position, a few yards away, across Harwood Drive. The monstrous sculpture was placed on a much sturdier custom-built concrete platform, rooted by 14 45-foot-deep foundation pilings. Krantz explained the details of the new installation like so: “The bill for building a new base that would satisfy the engineering requirement in size, but would also allow for the appearance of the work emanating from the earth, not standing on a pedestal, was nearly $75,000. This was all inclusive of building the base and moving the piece. Although the price was high, the value of the sculpture itself is far, far above that, and its value to UNO as an art community of higher learning made the cost more than reasonable. Luckily, we were able to find funds to be able to keep the piece displayed at UNO.”
On Tuesday (July 26) Lundberg completed the cleaning of the sculpture. By then, the cost of the overall project had reached $145,000. Krantz wrote that “The piece is an extraordinarily fine example of Lundberg's monumental work. It stands 2 stories high to pay homage to and rise from the native landscape. It organic shape embodies a variety of materials-both meaningful and mundane, and inspires its viewers to explore how an artist's vision can transform materials into new creations. In this case Lundberg evinces the swamp wolf of legend--gigantic, dark, mythical. We believe that our students and visitors alike can be impressed by its power and inspired to look deeper into the art around them.”
Professor Saucedo admires Lundberg for creating a sculpture that is “unapologetic in all regards.” He considers the concrete monolith to be “honest, coarse, ugly and powerful.” The gnarled shape implies “the apocalypse already happened,” Saucedo said. He points out that the simple shape embodies striking male and female aspects.
Lundberg is relieved “Loup Garou” has finally found a home. “It’s been kicking around for a while.” he said. He says that he's confident the bottom-heavy sculpture was never going to topple in its first UNO location, but he’s happy with the new, more stable installation. He says the sculpture has a New Orleans feel, because it’s come through so much and is “standing tall and proud now.”
Lundberg’s sculpture is one of two new Goliaths on the UNO campus. Read about Seward Johnson’s 20-foot, $2 million “King Lear” sculpture here.
What do you think of Lundberg’s “Loup Garou” and/or Johnson’s “King Lear?” We’d like to hear from UNO students and faculty. Please post comments below, or write to Doug MacCash at firstname.lastname@example.org.