Privately commissioned by Wimpey Property Holdings Inc., London, Keith McCarter’s The Observer is an early example of a private developer commissioning public art for their building. Located on the street in front of the office building at 1020 19th St NW, the large spherical sculpture sits between landscaped bushes and flowers. The sculpture is made of bronze and has an egg-like shape, with deep and wide channels cut into it, interrupting the natural form of the sculpture’s body.
The private commission of McCarter’s work held multiple benefits for developers: the art itself distinguished the building from those nearby, of course, but also offered the possibility of receiving zoning adjustments as compensation for adding public art. Thus, the DC government could offer extra flexibility in the building’s construction, such as allowing for an extra floor or floor area ratios with the sculpture’s addition. As beneficial as this is to developers, the sculpture’s design and placement opened the door for future public art installations by private companies, giving the city’s streets a bit more character in spite of the large, modern office buildings.
This site is a stop on the Abstract Sculptures of DC tour.