One of the most controversial -- and I think, interesting -- pieces of public art in Cleveland is "Free Stamp" by Danish artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen. The 50-foot tall aluminum and steel replica of a hand stamp sits downtown at Willard Park on Lakeside Avenue, next to City Hall.
The artwork was originally commissioned in 1982 by the Standard Oil Company to sit in front of their soon-to-be-constructed headquarters building on Public Square (now the BP Building). The piece was originally to sit with the "Free" stamp facing downward, hidden from view. However, before the piece could be installed, Standard Oil was acquired by the British Petroleum Company (BP) who did not favor the piece. "Free Stamp" sat in storage in Indiana for years before BP donated it to the city of Cleveland.
The city consulted the artists as to a new site for their work. The Cleveland Museum of Art was proposed as were several other sites around town. Oldenburg and Van Bruggen chose Willard Park, near downtown Cleveland's government buildings, to represent their theme of freedom and free speech.
The stamp was modified to set on its side, revealing the "free" lettering. The artists claimed that it mirrored the piece being flung across downtown from the BP Building to Willard Park. "Free Stamp" was dedicated in November of 1991.
(Photo © S. Mitchell; Licensed to About, Inc.)