Renowned ‘Iron Poet’ Sculptor Richard Serra Passes Away at Age 85

Renowned American artist and sculptor Richard Serra, famed for fashioning walls of oxidizing steel into grand outdoor sculptures that grace landscapes worldwide, passed away Tuesday at his Long Island residence. He reached the age of 85.

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Serra, a leading figure among his contemporaries, hailed from San Francisco and initially pursued painting at Yale University, only to shift to sculpture in the 1960s after being influenced by his European journeys.

His passing was confirmed on Tuesday evening by his attorney, John Silberman of a New York-based firm. Pneumonia was cited as the cause of death.

Colleagues revered Serra as the “poet of iron,” and he achieved global acclaim for his massive steel works, including towering arcs, spirals, and ellipses. His name became synonymous with the 1970s minimalist art movement.

Serra first drew widespread notice in 1981 with the installation of his controversial “Tilted Arc,” a 120-foot-long (36.5-meter-long), 12-foot-high (3.6-meter-high) wall of raw steel that cut through Federal Plaza in New York City. The piece sparked immediate outcry and calls for its removal, eventually leading to its disassembly. However, this controversy only solidified Serra’s stature in the New York art world.

By 2005, Serra saw eight significant installations of his work at the Guggenheim Museum in Spain. Carmen Jimenez, the curator of the exhibit, regarded Serra as “beyond doubt the most significant living sculptor.”

Before embarking on his influential sculpting career, Serra supported his studies by working in steel mills, funding his education at the University of California’s Berkeley and Santa Barbara. Subsequently, he graduated from Yale in 1964.

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