Free Hanging Chain, 2014
chain link, hardware
dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist, Los Angeles
Commissioned for the exhibition Mound City; on view through 2016

Sam Durant has taken as his touchstone the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a.k.a. the Gateway Arch, to trigger his work Free Hanging Chain, 2014. The Arch has come to embody certain myths about the founding of America as it celebrates St. Louis’ historical role as the western-most outpost in conquering the land and peoples west of the Mississippi. St. Louis may indeed have been the primary portal for moving west, but the consequences of that migration are mixed, for both sides.

Durant turned to the Arch to reflect on the impact built monuments have on our understanding of history. The Arch is as much an inadvertent memorial to the loss of the region’s financial, social, political and economic primacy in the American body politic as it is a mourning for the lost cultures that were swept away in our rush to acquire land. Using a group of nickel-plated chains hanging among the trees, Durant’s public work uses the same minimalist vocabulary and materials as Saarinen’s Arch, but with dramatically opposite implications.

Sculpture Interaction Guideline: Look, But Do Not Touch


Sam Durant’s work engages a variety of social, political and cultural issues, often using American history to explore fraught relationships among culture, politics and official memory. He was born in Seattle in 1961 and lives and works in Los Angeles. Durant received his B.F.A. and his M.A. from Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, and his M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts. He has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium; and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand. Durant’s work is represented in the public collections of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Berkeley Museum of Art, Berkeley; Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Tate Modern, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He has received awards and grants from the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York; and the USA Foundation, New York.