Hey, Lick at This! Minneapolis Is Spoon-Fed by Claes Oldenburg

updated 11/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

By converting the site of an old armory into a 7.5-acre sculpture garden, Minneapolis has beaten swords into something more pleasing than plowshares. Now where tanks once rumbled, people ramble, gravitating toward the garden's 52-foot-long, water-spouting centerpiece, spoon-bridge and Cherry.

Nearly 5,000 people have been flocking to the $12-million sculpture park each weekend to ogle Spoon-bridge, a creation of pop-art patriarch Claes Oldenburg and his wife, art historian Coosje van Bruggen. The garden, a joint project of the Walker Art Center and the city's Park and Recreation Board, is linked to downtown Minneapolis by Siah Armajani's double-arched footbridge and also contains works by Isamu Noguchi, Henry Moore, George Segal and Richard Serra. But no question about it, Spoonbridge and Cherry is the major attraction. Made of molded aluminum, the spoon is anchored to the ground by bolts sunk in concrete and is topped by a gravity-defying 1,200-pound aluminum maraschino cherry. "We wanted something to break up the formal feeling of the garden," says van Bruggen, 46, who likens the atmosphere to that of Versailles. "Louis XIV was known for the etiquette he enforced in the palace. The spoon and cherry fit right in as a parody of table manners."

Actually Spoonbridge is no bridge: Traversing it is not allowed, though
several teenagers have tried, only to be shooed away by park guards. People are welcome, though, to sail toy boats on the pond the spoon spans or to skate on it in winter. "We designed the fountain to look as good in the winter as in the summer," says Oldenburg, 59. "In the warm weather it is a fountain, with water spouting from the cherry stem and keeping the cherry looking juicy. In winter, it may look more like an ice-cream sundae."

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