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Split Button

1981 by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

Split Button

The Split Button by Claes Oldenburg. Credit: R. Tarver for GPTMC


Another 1% commission (thanks to Philadelphia’s Percent for Art Program) gave Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, his wife and collaborator, a chance to design a sculpture for the University of Pennsylvania.

Knowing that Ben Franklin had founded the university, and noticing that a nearby statue depicted him as somewhat plump, they imagined that Ben had popped a button.

The button would have fallen to the ground and been broken by students’ feet. Thus the sculptors created a massive aluminum “split” button for the plaza in front of the main library.

Split Button has become a landmark and popular meeting point on the Penn campus. Students often lounge on it to relax.

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