Paley on Park Avenue

Envious Composure on Park Avenue in New York City. Photo courtesy of Albert Paley Studio.

In 2013, Albert Paley and his studio took on the monumental project of creating and installing thirteen public sculptures on Park Avenue in New York. They were placed throughout the passage from the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street down to 52nd Street and made in a full range of materials from CorTen, stainless, and weathering steel, and a variety of finishes and colors. The present lot is a maquette that was created in the design process for the final 19-foot tall, 5-ton version of Envious Composure which was displayed on the south corner of 67th Street and Park Avenue. The sculptures were on view from June through October and captivated locals and tourists with their gravity-defying heights, whiplash curves, and vivid colors.

Learn more about the Paley on Park Avenue project in this six-part series by WXXI:

Episode 1
Episode 2

Episode 3
Episode 4

Episode 5
Episode 6

As you work, the form leaps and changes, it moves, maybe subdivides. It follows the same steps as organic growth. It enables you to deal intimately with the physicality and malleability of material and process…I wasn’t trying to design the movement and motion. They were generated.

Albert Paley

Albert Paley

Albert Paley is an American jewelry designer and sculptor whose work defies strict categorization as either art or craft, instead embracing the finer aspects of both disciplines.

Paley was born in Philadelphia in 1944 to lower middle class parents. Despite showing a natural inclination towards the arts, Paley held misgivings about pursuing a career as an artist. He believed the only way to earn a steady income in the arts was to find work in advertising—a proposition he found distasteful.

It was Paley’s girlfriend, a student at the Tyler School of Art, who convinced him otherwise. A single Saturday spent touring the campus and Paley was sold; he enrolled at the Tyler School of Arts with hardly enough money for a single semester’s tuition. Paley began taking classes in jewelry making and sculpture during his sophomore year and soon found himself enthralled with both crafts. Paley graduated from the Tyler School of Arts in 1969 with a Master in Fine Arts.

Paley began his professional career as a jeweler creating works of wearable art that merged the sinuous and organic lines of European Art Nouveau with the visual weight of metalwork. Later in 1969, Paley accepted a position teaching goldsmithing at the Rochester Institute of Technology, but continued to pursue his sculptural aspirations on the side. In 1972, Paley was commissioned to produce the Portal Gates at the Smithsonian Institute’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. Completed in 1973, and installed in 1976, the monumental steel, bronze and copper doors earned Paley national recognition as a metalsmith of truly unique vision.

Albert Paley’s sculptures don’t simply occupy space; they command it. Paley possesses a rare ability to transform iron from a lifeless and unyielding metal into a moving, almost liquid, element. Despite the seemingly spontaneous and organic nature of his work, Paley is a consummate draftsman, envisioning the majority of his creations on paper before stepping to the forge.

Crossing the boundaries between art and craft, Paley has established himself as one of the greatest metal artists in the country. Throughout his career, he has completed several important private and public site-specific commissions including the Clay Center Sculpture at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in West Virginia and the Animals Always installation at the St. Louis Zoo. Further, his works have been widely published and can be found in multiple major museum collections around the world.

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