Richard Serra Dead at 85

( – Artist and sculptor Richard Serra has died from pneumonia at the age of 85, as confirmed by his lawyer on Tuesday, March 26. He died at home in Long Island, New York, and is survived by wife Clara Weyergraf, the art historian to whom he had been married since 1981.

Richard Serra, born in San Fransisco to immigrant parents in 1939, earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of California, before going on to study fine art at Yale University. His studies were interrupted when a prank involving handing a live chicken to a guest lecturer resulted in his two-week suspension. Throughout his life, he would continue to shock and cause controversy through his artistic choices, but at the same time would become renowned as the “poet of iron” who forged an incredible legacy with his often-towering works of art.

Serra was trained as a painter but discovered his love of sculpting, particularly with iron, after finding inspiration in his 1960’s European travels. He would continue to paint throughout his life, but soon became well established as an impressive figure in the world of sculpture. Serra became an icon of the Minimalist movement whose works have been installed across the world, both in museums and in outdoor public settings.

Serra told The Guardian newspaper in 2008 that his aim with his larger-than-life sculptures was to have the viewer truly engage with the work, explaining that without people “walking into the work” there would be “no content”. Indeed, some of his huge metalworks are designed such that they have corridors for visitors to walk through so they can experience the work all around them.

The physical enormousness of his works has proved dangerous at times, however. In 1971, an installer was killed when a 5000 lb sculpture by Serra fell on him at the Walker Art Center. In 1988, two workers were trapped for some minutes when another piece weighing 32 tons fell on them during the deinstallation process.

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