What’s the story behind this objet d’art that graces the lawn between Green Library and Crothers Hall on the Stanford campus?
I’m glad you asked, because I happen to know the story.
It seems that Alexander Calder and Constantin Brancusi were commissioned – few people know this – to make a statue of Franz I of Liechtenstein, to be installed atop the Grauspitz (8527 ft).
The story was revealed by an assistant of Brancusi’s during an interview with Heinz Kellerassel, professor of art at the University of Goethingen, for a little-known 1936 monograph published by Deutscher Kunstkriecherverlag (Berlin).
After completing their labors, Calder and Brancusi chatted idly in the studio while enjoying a cold beer.
Brancusi, a tidy fellow, said, “Well, Sandy, that’s that! But what are we to do with those hunks over there – they’re too large to simply throw away.”
Calder sipped his beer and gazed thoughtfully at the formless chunk. Then he burped and chuckled softly, like the rumble of freight cars being shunted in a distant switching yard.
“I know, Connie. We’ll call it ‘The Archangel Gabriel Admonishing the Walrus,’ and we’ll sell it to an idiot art collector.”
Brancusi uttered a nasal giggle.
“Oh, yes, Sandy – I do believe you have a concept! I think a university would do – an American university! They have the least taste, the greatest pretensions, and simply oodles of money! It’s brilliant!”
And that’s how Stanford, filthy-rich and with a depthless inferiority complex for not being Harvard, came to acquire this wonderful sculpture.
At least, I think it’s a sculpture – before I heard the story, I imagined it was something left behind by Facilities Maintenance after completing a plumbing job at Green Libe.
Apologies to Jack Zajac, creator of “Big Ram Skull and Horn.” I’m sure it’s a fine sculpture and I’m a philistine.