The Alabama Biennial was a sculpture competition and exhibition that took place on The University of Alabama campus in the years 1991, 1993, and 1995. The juried competition invited sculptors “to exhibit portraits of mythological and historical characters and memorialize the spirit of the age in which the subject lived.”100_2032

The very first year of the Biennial, 1991, when the marble statues making up Be Gardiner’s work, Icarus and the Guardian Angels, won one of two purchase prizes, Dean of Arts and Sciences James Yarbrough designated the purchased works throughout campus “The University of Alabama’s permanent outdoor collection.”

In 1995 (its third exhibition), Dean Yarbrough wrote in that year’s catalog that the endowment for the Biennial was established “in order to exhibit and acquire sculpture of heroic proportions for the University.”Billy Lee, Homage to Brancusi, 1993

In the first two years, the competition was coordinated by the “vision and considerable professional skill” of Art Oakes, now professor emeritus of sculpture. Because of his efforts the Alabama Biennial “quickly gained a reputation as an important outdoor sculpture exhibition in the South.” In year three, Oakes was honored for his efforts and a purchase prize named for him.

The five works still on campus – by Andrew Arvanetes, George Beasley, Peter Flanary, Be Gardiner, and Billy Lee – won purchase awards and became part of what former Arts and Sciences Dean James Yarbrough designated “The University of Alabama’s permanent outdoor collection.” Please visit our Flickr set on the Alabama Biennial and go to Flickr’s map to find each piece’s location on The University of Alabama campus.Peter Flanary, Walt Whitman Cult Wagon, 1995


Be Gardiner’s Angels and Flanary’s Wagon were both vandalized at different times. In 1991, the New York Times ran an article about the significant damage to Icarus and the Guardian Angels. Peter Flanary’s piece was vandalized three times in 2004. In the spring 2008 issue of our newsletter, The Loupe, we focused on public art and the danger of vandalism. See especially pages 1, 4 and 6.

(Quotations are from the 1993 and 1995 Alabama Biennial catalogs.)