Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae - Seattle, WA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NW_history_buff
N 47° 36.372 W 122° 19.997
10T E 550111 N 5272747
Quick Description: This abstract sculpture by renowned artist Henry Moore sits in front of the Liberty Mutual building on 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle, WA.
Location: Washington, United States
Date Posted: 1/6/2013 10:10:22 PM
Waymark Code: WMG383
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 4

Long Description:
Passersby along 4th Avenue in front of the Liberty Mutual building in downtown Seattle will most likely see a large, abstract sculpture with three shapes sitting prominently in the open area of the plaza and inviting viewers to walk around it, taking in the forms that simulate pieces of a spine or backbone, hence the title of this piece: Vertebrae.

This three piece sculpture was created by renowned artist Henry Moore in 1968-9 and later purchased by Seafirst (Seattle First) National Bank in 1971 to reside in front of their new tower building. Bank of America took over Seafirst after a near-financial collapse in 1982, then secretly sold the sculpture to Japanese investors along with the building in 1986, the year Henry Moore died. What followed was an outcry by the Seattle public art world which culminated in Bank of America buying back the sculpture and donating it to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), and is administered by the Seattle Arts Commission today. Bank of America later moved, the building became Safeco Plaza and then became Liberty Mutual in 2008, and still currently owns and maintains the building and plaza where this sculpture resides.

The following description is from the AIC regarding Vertebrae:

Description: Abstract curvilinear sculpture comprised of three forms, set in fountain pool. The sculpture was part of a larger collection of art works originally acquired by the Seattle-First National Bank for its new headquarters building. Twenty years later, in 1986, when Seafirst had to sell its headquarters building, a public outcry over the potential sale of the art work to a private collector resulted in the purchase and gift of the sculpture to the Seattle Art Museum. For further reading see Seattle Times, Oct. 9, 1986, pg. A1 and Sept. 7, 1986, pg. A23.


I noticed the fountain pool was empty when I viewed this piece, along with many other fountains in downtown Seattle and am assuming the City turns off water flows in fountains during the winter months for fear of freezing/damaging pipes, so in a technical sense, this sculpture is also a fountain.

There is a website dedicated to Henry Moore's works and he is quoted on this sculpture as saying this about it:

Each of the forms, although different, has the same basic shape. Just as in a backbone which may be made up of twenty segments where each one is roughly like the others but not exactly the same…This is why I call these sculptures Vertebrae. The two or three forms are basically alike but are arranged to go with each other in different positions. The sculptor’s life is one of thinking, reacting, or making, expressing himself through form, through shape – for me the three-dimensional world is unending.

TITLE: Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae

ARTIST(S): Henry Moore

DATE: 1968-69

MEDIUM: Bronze


Direct Link to the Individual Listing in the Smithsonian Art Inventory: [Web Link]

Fourth Avenue Building (Liberty Mutual) 1001 4th Avenue Seattle, Washington

I noticed no differences from the AIC description of this piece and my own observation other than the additional mention of the transfer of ownership of the sculpture over the years from Bank of America to Japanese investors, back to B of A and then into Seattle Art Museum hands. The building is also currently owned by Liberty Mutual Life Insurance. *NOTE* AIC has my permission to use the pictures I've provided when creating this waymark for their database. ~Doug Halvorsen (thebeav69)

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