Richard Serra Sculptures On Google Maps


The whole thing about the only human construct you can see from space is the Great Wall of China will be amusing to people growing up in the Google Maps era, where you can't hide anything from the satellite's surveilling eye. It's the geospatial equivalent of explaining TV before remotes and cable: it'll just make you sound old.

So kudos to Richard Serra for being ahead of the curve [no pun intended] on making work that turns out to be well-suited for viewing from our new conveniently God-like vantage point.

I started to make a list with the Torqued Ellipse in front of Glenstone, Mitch Rales' foundation in Potomac, and the suggestion from Guthrie of T.E.U.C.L.A., a torqued ellipse in the Murphy Sculpture Garden behind the Broad Art Center at UCLA, described at its installation in 2006 as "the first public work by sculptor Richard Serra installed in Southern California."

And that reminded me that the Broads have had a Serra titled No Problem in their backyard for a while, which, thanks to Google Maps, is now public. Searching for that image led me to pmoore66's collection of bird's eye view Serras around the world at Virtual Globetrotting. If you count Robert Smithson's Amarillo Ramp, which he helped complete after Serra Smithson's death [!], pmoore66 has sighted 44 Serras around the world using either Google Maps, or Microsoft's Bird's Eye View, plus another four shots on Google Streetview. [Here are the search results on Virtual Globetrotting for "Richard Serra", but that link looks a little unstable.]


With more than 1,700 entries so far, pmoore66 appears to be almost single-handedly pinning down the modernist canon for architecture and outdoor sculpture. This warrants some looking into. Stay tuned.

The more oblique angles of birds-eye-view seems to suit Serra's sculptures better, and they remind me of a series of little desk tchotchke-sized versions of monumental sculptures called minuments that I saw in the ICA London bookshop a few years ago. As soon as I can figure out how to get Google to stop spellchecking for me, I'll get the artist's name.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: February 2, 2009.

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