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"Echo", a 46-foot sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist Jaume Plensa, to be installed on the waterfront in 2014

For Immediate Release

​​SEATTLE, November 14, 2013 – Today, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) announced an iconic new addition to the Olympic Sculpture Park. Echo (2011), a dramatic 46-foot tall figurative sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, will be installed next year on the shoreline of the sculpture park. Plensa is one of the world's foremost sculptors working in the public space, with over 30 projects spanning the globe in such cities as Chicago, Dubai, London, Liverpool, Tokyo, Toronto, and New York. 

Echo has been given to the Seattle Art Museum from the collection of Barney A. Ebsworth. It was originally commissioned by the Madison Park Association in New York and installed at Madison Square Park in 2011 to great acclaim. It is made from resin, steel and marble dust.

"Echo will be a spectacular and iconic new addition to the park and Seattle’s waterfront," said Kimerly Rorschach, the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director of SAM. "This is an incredible gift to the city from Barney Ebsworth and Echo will become a beacon for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the park each year."

Echo was modeled on the 9-year old daughter of a restaurant owner near the artist’s studio in Barcelona. With computer modeling, Plensa elongates and abstracts the girl’s features. The sculpture references Echo, the mountain nymph from Greek mythology. As told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Echo offended the goddess Hera by keeping her engaged in conversation, and preventing her from spying on one of Zeus’s amours. To punish Echo, Hera deprived the nymph of speech, except for the ability to repeat the last words of another. Plensa created this monumental head of Echo, listening with her eyes closed or in a state of meditation. The artist envisions Echo to look out over Puget Sound in the direction of Mount Olympus.

"Many times we talk and talk," Plensa said in an interview for the New York Times about Echo in 2011, "but we are not sure if we are talking with our own words or repeating just messages that are in the air. My intention is to offer something so beautiful that people have an immediate reaction, so that they think, ‘What’s happening?’ And then maybe they can listen a little bit to themselves."

"Plensa has established an international reputation for creating public sculptures that are both monumental in scale and meditative in subject," said Catharina Manchanda, Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. "Seattle is the fortunate recipient of this work that will join other iconic works in the park by artists such as Alexander Calder, Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois and Tony Smith."

Artist Bio
Jaume Plensa (Spanish, b.1955)

Over the past 25 years, the artist has produced a rich body of work in the studio and the public realm. By combining conventional sculptural materials (glass, steel, bronze, aluminum) with more unconventional media (water, light, sound, video), and frequently incorporating text, Plensa creates hybrid works of intricate energy and psychology. From his delicately textured, intimate works on paper--like his 2005-06 series of ethnographic portraits that resemble worn, 19th century photographs--to monumental outdoor sculptures like Nomade (2007) and a range of cityscape-altering public projects like the Crown Fountain in Chicago (2000-05), Plensa's work takes many forms.

The winner of many national and international awards, Jaume Plensa has had solo exhibitions at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, UK; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; Institut Valencia d'Art Modern, Spain; the Musée Picasso, Antibes, France; the Arts Club of Chicago; Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid and Galerie National du Jeu de Paume, Paris among many others.

Plensa has exhibited more than 30 major public art projects in countries throughout several continents. He was awarded a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 1993, and received an honorary doctorate in 2005 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, among other honors. His public art installations are particularly renowned, and include the legendary Crown Fountain (2000-5) in Chicago’s Millennium Park and Nomade (2007) commissioned by the Musée Picasso in Antibes, France. Plensa’s 2011 commission for Madison Square Park constitutes his long-awaited New York City public art debut. Plensa has exhibited to great acclaim at institutions including the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, Spain; the Musée Picasso, Antibes, France; the Arts Club of Chicago; Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid and Galerie National du Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Plensa has been a professor and lecturer at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Cara Egan
SAM Public Relations