New York, Boston, Barcelona ... and the Q-C: The works of Beverly Pepper

New York, Boston, Barcelona ... and the Q-C: The works of Beverly Pepper

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Of the works that sculptor Beverly Pepper created while in the Quad-Cities, four are still here.

They are at the Figge Art Museum, John Deere World Headquarters, TaxSlayer Center and .... off a dead-end street in Davenport on the lawn of the Public Works Department Building with absolutely no signage to explain what it is, who made it, or when.

You can't miss it, though.

"Trapezium" is 23 feet, eight inches in height, weighs 12 tons and is made of ductile iron, a type of iron that has greater tensile strength than common gray iron, that has rusted to a dark brown.

People familiar with the piece often call it The Tuning Fork, because, with two trapezoidal shafts mounted side by side on a base, that is what it looks like.

It was given by Deere to the city of Davenport, and it originally was installed in front of what was then the Davenport Art Gallery (today's Figge Art Museum), next to the Putnam Museum off 12th and Division streets.

It was transported to the gallery from the foundry in three sections mounted on two flatbed semi-trucks, and was installed on Aug. 17, 1981, with the use of an 18-ton crane, according to newspaper accounts of the time.

Among those watching the installation were the mayor of Davenport and numerous representatives of Deere, including president Robert Hanson.

"Anything we can do to enhance the environment is good for both the community and business," Hanson told a reporter covering the event.

Robert Chaney, foundry manager, noted that iron historically was used by artists before it found industrial applications. "With this sculpture, we are seeing a return to iron's original use."

The move

"Trapezium" stayed at the gallery until around 2001 when the Putnam's IMAX Theatre was being built and the sculpture became in the way of what would be the museum's reconfigured entrance and driveway, said Dee Bruemmer, who was Davenport's public works director at the time.

dee bruemmer

Dee Bruemmer

Simultaneously, art museum leaders knew they would be moving to a different location, so it became apparent the sculpture would have to be moved and possibly put into storage, Bruemmer said. As public works director, she also was overseer of the art gallery, which still functioned as a city department  rather than the nonprofit it is today.

Bruemmer suggested the lawn of the new Public Works Department Building as a good location for the sculpture, and not just as temporary storage.

She still thinks the lawn is a good location, and bristles when people suggest that the sculpture should be moved to somewhere else where more people could see it. Her reasons include that, at some point, 46th Street will cut through at Eastern Avenue and become another east-west thoroughfare.

Additionally, the piece needs a large space to be properly appreciated, and the Public Works lawn provides that, she said.

Third, moving would be costly; her recollection is that $35,000 was spent to relocate it to Public Works, and that was with Hampton Crane donating the crane. Such an amount would be better spent buying another piece of art and leaving "Trapezium" where it is, she believes.

Finally, "why don't public works employees deserve good art?" she asks.

What "Trapezium" might be worth financially, especially now that its maker has died, is unknown. It's been suggested that the city get an updated appraisal, Bruemmer said.

Other sculptures in the Q-C

"Spirit of Place." Standing 19 feet in height and weighing six tons, this piece originally was installed outside the Silvis foundry where it was made. Workers called it "The Wedge" because that's what it looked like.

But as Deere phased out its operations there, the company donated it to what was The Mark of the Quad-Cities, now the TaxSlayer Center. The sculpture was put in place the night before the Mark opened in 1993.

The location is significant because the land where the center is built was the site of the factory where John Deere began making his famous self-scouring steel plow in Moline. Deere donated the land for the building of the center.

In making the donation, Hans Becherer, Deere's chairman and CEO, noted in a letter dated October 1991 that the sculpture cost $59,701 to produce and that its value 10 years later was in the $150,000 range.

"Beverly Pepper is now a major player in the world sculpture market and very highly ranked among critics as well as collectors of monumental sculpture," Becherer wrote.

"'Spirit of Place' is a major sculpture as it was among the first artworks cast in ductile iron as well as being designed by Beverly Pepper. ... In light of the exceptional increase in price of Beverly Pepper sculpture pieces in the international art market, I wanted you to be aware of the asset value..."

 "Pythias Presence." This 9-foot, 9-inch sculpture is at the Figge, at the top of the steps on the second floor.

Name unknown. A smaller piece, about 8½ tall, was installed inside the training room of the Silvis foundry in 1981. During the foundry phase-out, the piece was moved and now stands on a patio at world headquarters where employees eat lunch, Neil Dahlstrom, manager of corporate archives and history, said.

Its name could not be determined for this story.

While the Feb. 7 New York Times obituary about Pepper explains that her work is found in New York, Boston, Washington, Barcelona and numerous other sites throughout the world, it makes no mention of the dozen or more pieces she made in Silvis in 1981.


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This newspaper photo shows "Trapezium" when it was in location at the Davenport Art Gallery. It was moved around 2001 to make way for a new en…

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