Sight Point (for Leo Castelli)

Writer & Photographer Matthew Klassen

Walking southwest across the Museumplein, a park complex of Amsterdam’s most high-profile art institutions, one first encounters the Rijksmuseum, followed by the Van Gogh Museum, before approaching the three towering steel plates that make up one of the defining works by the American minimalist sculptor Richard Serra.

Sight Point (for Leo Castelli) is an early example of arguably his most recognizable practice. Initially conceived in 1972 for a contest at Wesleyan University, it was the first of his public pieces to utilize giant plates of Cor-Ten steel, counterbalanced and displayed out in the open, where they are subject to the weathering effects of time. It ended up winning the prize, but wasn’t actually installed until 1975, when it found a home in the Stedelijk’s former sculpture garden. Eventually removed in 1997 to allow for the redesign of the Museumplein, it was reinstalled at the new entrance to the Stedelijk in September 2012.

Serra’s sculptures often invite viewers to interact with them from all angles, which in the case of Sight Point (for Leo Castelli), and many subsequent works, includes an internal aperture. Having been able to spend a significant amount of time with the piece during a recent visit to Amsterdam, I’ve come to realize firsthand that experiencing Serra’s monumental creations is not necessarily an intellectual exercise, but can also be a visceral act – walking around, relating to their geometry, weight and magnitude, and letting the mind wander while doing so.