Outdoor Art Gallery Planned Near Pennsylvania Convention Center

Although the expanded Pennsylvania Convention Center was expected to dominate the view on North Broad Street, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) has unveiled plans to beautify one of downtown Philadelphia's major thoroughfares with a new public art plaza across the street from the convention behemoth, it announced this month.

The plaza, called Lenfest Plaza, will be located on Cherry Street, across the street from the convention center's new entrance. Its centerpiece will be a sculpture by world-renowned artist Claes Oldenburg, whose design features a 53-foot paintbrush, raised at a 60-degree angle as if in the act of painting, with a dollop of paint on the ground below.

"Philadelphia has a distinguished history as a leader in public art, and PAFA is proud to add to that cultural distinction," said PAFA President and CEO David R. Brigham. "The city is also known for its concentration of artworks by such great artists as Charles Wilson Peale, Thomas Eakins, Paul Cezanne, Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp, and with the addition of a third outdoor sculpture by him, Claes Oldenburg. Collecting such important artists in depth helps to set Philadelphia apart as an international cultural destination."

To be unveiled to the public in spring 2011, when the convention center is expected to complete its expansion, Lenfest Plaza also will offer public outdoor seating and rotating works of emerging and established artists.

In a column that printed early this month, Inga Saffron, architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, called the two projects — the convention center and Lenfest Plaza — "the Beauty and the Beast of North Broad Street."

"Architecture challenges us in different ways," Saffron wrote. "Simply by offering conventioneers a gateway to an authentic urban experience, Lenfest Plaza demonstrates the power of good landscape design to redeem our most boosterish impulses."