Celebrating Charlotte’s oldest sculpture and International Sculpture Day

Categories: ASC, Blog, Uncategorized

Why This Matters: Sculptural works like Arnaldo Pomodoro’s “Il Grande Disco” will be celebrated in April on International Sculpture Day.

“II Grande Disco.”
“II Grande Disco.”

By Emily Sogard
Cultural & Community Investment Intern

International Sculpture Day, which is April 24, is a great excuse to get outside to enjoy the spring weather and all of the wonderful sculpture found in Charlotte-Mecklenburg!

But where should you start?

Emily Sogard.
Emily Sogard.

My suggestion is to start where it all began, with the oldest public sculpture in Charlotte – Arnaldo Pomodoro’s “Il Grande Disco.”

A piece those who live and work in uptown immediately recognize, Pomodoro’s “Il Grande Disco” sits in the shadow of the Bank of America headquarters on the corner of Trade and Tryon streets. Even if you are familiar with the giant, futuristic disc sculpture, you might be unaware of its stories. After all, it has been in the heart of our city since 1974, so it is not surprising that it has many stories to tell. It has stood through Charlotte’s childhood and is still by its side as the city continues to grow.

Let’s start at its conception. Pomodoro is a world-renowned Italian artist. His intense, geometric sculptures can be found all over the world. His distinct style is easily recognizable, even to the untrained eye. Pomodoro wrote that his work is “centered on the relationship between the individual sculpture and the space in which it is sited.”

“Il Grande Disco” does just that. The piece emerges slowly, from the inside out, much like the city itself. Its shiny exterior gives way to a less refined, rough center. It dominates the bank plaza from the vantage point of those looking up at it but appears to be an integral piece of a much larger puzzle from the perspective of the buildings towering over it. It forces the viewer to be involved, to tackle what they see head on. Taken together, the artwork could be said to represent the hard work and perseverance of the city referred to as the “Hornet’s Nest.”

Originally commissioned by North Carolina National Bank (the precursor to Bank of America), the piece is now part of The Mint Museum’s permanent collection. When it was installed, Charlotte was in the midst of its first big population boom. The population had nearly doubled the decade before and Charlotteans where looking ahead to a bright future.

“Il Grande Disco” symbolized that, too.

“The disc makes a powerful statement,” read a “Charlotte Observer” editorial that ran the day after the installation. “People stand to view it in awe. It looks as if the layout of a city were etched across its polished face, with streets and buildings radiating outward from a central core.”

It used to spin in its early days but it’s anchored to the ground today. It’s been graffitied and mocked. It’s also one of the most photographed public artworks in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. So while it hasn’t been universally embraced, it’s caused residents and visitors to reflect on their environment in a way they would not be able to do so without it. I think Pomodoro would say that makes his work successful.

So I urge you to begin your journey celebrating International Sculpture Day at the heart of the city, at the intersection of Trade and Tryon. Head over to Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood, too, to check out “Now is Fireworks” by the Wall Poems of Charlotte team of Amy Bagwell and Graham Carew as part of ASC’s International Sculpture Day celebration.

And, as you explore the public art found in our region, remember where it all started.

Celebrate International Sculpture Day 2016

International Sculpture Day is Sunday, April 24, 2016. ASC will celebrate a day earlier – from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23, 2016 – with the dedication and celebration of the public artwork “Now is Fireworks” by the Charlotte Wall Poems team of Amy Bagwell and Graham Carew.

The artwork, located in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood, contains permanent, semi-permanent and temporary elements. Everyone is encouraged to take self-guided tours of the Elizabeth public artwork (which you can read more about here) and to explore public art in uptown by taking our Public Art Walking Tour (click here for more information).