“The University of Alabama’s permanent outdoor collection”
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.”
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, then-Dean James Yarbrough designated the purchased works throughout campus “The University of Alabama’s permanent outdoor collection.”
Familiar to pedestrians around Garland Hall, Peter Flanary’s Walt Whitman Cult Wagon won the Art Oakes Purchase Award in 1995, and became part of the UA’s permanent outdoor collection. http://www.flickr.com/photos/uaart/2868653648/
In 1995 (the third exhibition), 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.”
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 artists Andrew Arvanetes, George Beasley, Peter Flanary, Be Gardiner, and Billy Lee — won purchase awards and became part of UA’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.
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 Gardiner’s work. 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. Although not exactly vandalism, according to this 2012 Crimson White article, Andrew Arvanetes’ Phoenix should not have been displayed outside.
(Quotations are from the 1993 and 1995 Alabama Biennial catalogs.)