Wherever you are in St. Louis, seriously amazing public art enhances your surroundings. While it’s nearly impossible to settle on a single list, here are 20 sculptures you really need to see up close. These pieces also happen to put you in the heart of a variety of areas worthy of exploration.
From Downtown, where the Gateway Arch National Park meets the banks of the Mississippi River, to the western boundaries of St. Louis County, you’re never far from creative expression. Check each of these accessible artworks off your list, and you’ll have had a thorough tour of STL.
Bob Gibson by Harry Weber (from St. Louis)
Ten sculptures of St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame players dot the sidewalk in the shadow of the always impressive, cathedral-like ballpark, Busch Stadium, including lights-out pitcher, Bob Gibson.
Location: Downtown, 8th St. at Clark Ave, St. Louis, MO 63201
About the Artist: www.harryweber.com
Walking Figure by Donald Baechler
Posing motionless, stuck forever in a walking stance but never gaining any ground. The form reminds the viewer of a child’s drawing of a human, striding purposefully toward some unknown end. Bonus: Walk about a half-mile east to see a little sculpture called the Gateway Arch. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
Location: Downtown, 720 Olive St, St. Louis, MO 63101
About the Artist: www.donaldbaechler.com
Soldiers Memorial Equestrian Figures by Walter Hancock (from St. Louis)
Created as part of a Federal Art Project Commission, the work captures four figures. On the south side of the memorial, Courage and Vision are represented. On the north side, Loyalty and Sacrifice. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the site three years before the imposing pieces were created.
Location: Soldiers Memorial, 1315 Chestnut St, St. Louis, MO 63103
Learn More: Click here and here
Big White Gloves, Big Four Wheels (Pinocchio sculpture) by Jim Dine
Jim Dine has been intrigued by the story of Pinocchio for much of his life. In recent years he has explored the temptations, trials and tribulations of the mischievous wooden boy through a series of drawings, prints and sculptures. Like Geppetto, the puppet’s fictional creator, Dine brings Pinocchio to life. The artist believes “the idea of a talking stick becoming a boy, is like a metaphor for art.”
2008; Painted Bronze
Location: Citygarden, 801 Market St, St. Louis, MO 63101
About the Artist: www.citygardenstl.org/art/jim-dine
City Museum (That’s right – the entire museum)
We couldn’t possibly isolate one aspect of this one-of-a-kind, sprawling, living-and-breathing creative extravaganza. Housed in an old shoe factory in Downtown St. Louis, City Museum is an ever-evolving, always-thrilling, artist-built playground full of weirdly wonderful spaces to explore. See it and believe it.
Opened in 1997; Multimedia (lots and lots of media)
Location: 750 North 16th Street, St. Louis, MO 63103
Learn More: www.citymuseum.org
Pillars of the Valley by Damon Davis (from East St. Louis)
This St. Louis Public Radio writeup by Miya Norfleet said it best: “Mill Creek Valley — the predominantly Black neighborhood that was torn down in the late 1950s — was nearly forgotten by St. Louisans despite its rich history and relevant connection to notable Black leaders. St. Louis City SC has officially unveiled a new monument called “Pillars of the Valley” to encourage soccer fans to remember and recognize the history of the land on which the stadium stands — and the ills of the past that led to its demolition.”
2022; Eight 15-foot-tall black, granite, hourglass-shaped statues
Location: CITYPARK, 2019 Market St., St. Louis, MO 63103 (At the corner of 22nd Street and Market Street)
About the Artist: www.heartacheandpaint.com
Treemonisha by John Henry
This towering sculpture stands at the intersection of main thoroughfares near the historic Lafayette Square neighborhood. John Henry often chooses a name that has significance to the area in which he is placing a piece. Treemonisha relates to the Scott Joplin Opera written in 1910. The artist is familiar with and fond of the opera and Scott Joplin was from St. Louis and a major force in American music and American theatre.
2006; Painted Steel
Location: Lafayette Ave and Truman Pkwy (near the Walgreens at 1530 Lafayette Ave, St. Louis, MO 63104)
About the Artist: www.johnhenrysculpture.com/project/treemonisha
Rumors of War by Kehinde Wiley
Rumors of War reimagines traditional heroic equestrian sculptures. It features a man on a horse, with pose and posture modeled after the statue of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart that until recently stood on Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA. There are, however, several significant differences: The man on this horse is Black, wears a hoodie, jeans and high-top sneakers, and has his hair in dreadlocks. Wiley’s work is meant as a direct response to Confederate monuments by reimagining a new hero and protagonist. The sculpture displayed at DOORWAYS, an interfaith non-profit organization providing housing and related supportive services to improve quality of life and health outcomes for people affected by HIV/AIDS, is one of nine smaller versions, or “editions,” of a larger sculpture that Wiley made for placement in Richmond. Kehinde Wiley garnered widespread recognition for painting the official Presidential portrait of President Barack Obama, which now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Location: DOORWAYS Headquarters, 1101 North Jefferson Avenue, St Louis MO 63106
About the Artist: www.kehindewiley.com
Nijinkski Hare by Barry Flanagan
The statue Nijinski Hare marries Flanagan’s ever-present hare motif found in many of his bronzes (in the 1980s, he “perceived the image of a hare unveiling itself” before him and has used it since) with a playful and unique interpretation of Vaslav Nijinski, the world-famous Russian ballet dancer. Smack dab in the heart of the Grand Center Arts District, don’t pass up the opportunity to spend some time in this spot.
Location: 615 N Grand Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63103 (at the corner of Grant Blvd and Grandel Square)
About the Artist: www.barryflanagan.com
Joe by Richard Serra
Joe, commissioned in memory of Joseph Pulitzer, is an enormous plate of hot rolled steel torqued into a spiral resting in the courtyard of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. More than thirteen feet tall, this piece oscillates between installation and sculpture as it totally engulfs the viewer with its size. Joe relies on human interaction to achieve its effect and thereby becomes a strange, disorienting environment. The Pulitzer is free, as is the Contemporary Art Museum right next door. You don’t want to miss either.
2000; Cor-ten Steel
Location: Pulitzer Arts Foundation, 3716 Washington Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63108
About the Artist: www.gagosian.com/artists/richard-serra
World’s Largest Chess Piece by R.G. Ross Construction
Visit the World’s Largest Chess Piece (WLCP)! Certified by Guinness World Records on April 6, 2018, the iconic chess piece not only serves as a beacon for the Saint Louis Chess Campus, but also a regional and national landmark that exemplifies Saint Louis’ impact on the sport and art of American chess. The WLCP is on public display in front of the World Chess Hall of Fame, across the street from the Saint Louis Chess Club, in the heart of Saint Louis’ Central West End neighborhood.
2013; African Sapele Mahogany
Location: World Chess Hall of Fame; 4652 Maryland Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63108
Learn More: Click here and here.
Mouse by Tom Otterness
Entering the east entrance to The Grove neighborhood, on your right you’ll see Otterness’ Mouse greeting you to this popular, inclusive STL destination with lots of restaurants, bars, and shops to explore. The artist has other pieces throughout St. Louis, including at Citygarden Downtown.
Location: East entrance to The Grove, S. Sarah St & Manchester Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110
About the Artist: www.tomotterness.net
Looking Up by Tom Friedman (from St. Louis)
A 33.3-foot, 7,000-pound sculpture, Looking Up represents humans pondering space and the stars, and is the third sculpture in series of three. The first is permanently installed at the Laguna Gloria Campus of The Contemporary Austin, TX. The second is installed on Chicago’s lakefront through September 2018. The artist is a St. Louis native and an alum of Washington University in St. Louis.
2017; Polished stainless steel, texturized by a process of molding and lost-wax casting
Location: Saint Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110
About the Artist: www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/tom-friedman
Turtle Park by Bob Cassilly
It’s impossible not to tap into your inner child at Turtle Park. The three large turtles are named Richard, Sally, and Tom after the children of Mrs. Sonya (Sunny) Glassberg, who donated the playground. The four small turtles are named for her grandchildren Antonio, David, Adam, and Emily. Open from dawn until 10 p.m. daily, the park is located across the overpass from Forest Park, which is a jewel of the city and really does require a visit.
Location: Oakland Ave at Tamm Ave, St. Louis, MO 63139
Learn More: www.forestparkstatues.org/turtle-playground
Animals Always by Albert Paley
Animals Always is the world’s largest public zoo sculpture. It contains more than 60 recognizable animals, including elephants, penguins, giraffes and a giant salamander, as well as exotic vegetation. “It’s about how we relate to a threatened environment,” said Paley.
2006; Cor-ten Steel
Location: St. Louis Zoo, Forest Park, 1 Government Dr., St. Louis, MO 63110
About the Artist: www.albertpaley.com
Giant Three-Way Plug by Claes Oldenburg
This sculpture is situated out front of the Saint Louis Art Museum (free, excluding certain exhibitions), with a beautiful overlook of Forest Park’s Art Hill. Claes Oldenburg produces monumental sculptures of everyday consumer objects. In this work, an enormous three-way electrical plug lies partially buried in the ground. The artist has described it as resembling “an implement left over from a war, returning to nature.”
1970-1971; Cor-ten Steel and Bronze
Location: Saint Louis Art Museum, One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, MO 63110
About the Artist: www.oldenburgvanbruggen.com
Polyante by Dietrich Klinge
Klinge is most noted for his large scale, figurative statues. Like much of his other work, Polyante was first carved in wood with a chainsaw and then cast in bronze. Across the Delmar Ave. and a little to the east, you’ll find Grosser Pfubrub, another sculpture by the same artist. These pieces are located in The Delmar Loop, a renowned area for entertainment and great food.
Location: 6640 Delmar Blvd., University City, MO 63130
Learn More: www.gateway-foundation.org/CityWide-Polyante.aspx
Folke Filbyter by Carl Milles
One of Milles’ most mysterious characters is Folke Filbyter. Milles had been inspired by an episode in the Swedish author and Nobel Laureate Verner von Heidenstam’s novel Folkungaträdet when he created Folke Filbyter, who was the heathen ancestor of the Folkunga dynasty. According to an old Swedish myth, Folke Filbyter was searching for his grandson who had been kidnapped by the monks. In this sculpture, he is apparently crossing a brook while engrossed in his search.
Location: 10 N. Bemiston Ave, Clayton, MO 63105
About the Artist: www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/carl-milles-1633
The Awakening by J. Seward Johnson, Jr.
The Awakening was created by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. in 1980. The sculpture is buried in the ground, giving the impression of a distressed giant attempting to free himself from the ground. The left hand and right foot barely protrude, while the bent left leg and knee jut into the air. The bearded face, with the mouth in mid-scream, struggles to emerge from the earth.
Location: Central Park Chesterfield, 16365 Lydia Hill Dr, Chesterfield, MO 63017
About the Artist: www.chesterfield.mo.us/the-awakening.html
Walking Roots by Steve Tobin
Walking Roots converts facets of nature into sculpture. This work is a replica of its underground root system, created when Tobin excavated a dead oak tree on his property. Cast in bronze and then reassembled with the help of an archaeologist, this piece exposes the active and wonderfully complex world that lies beneath the soil. One of many astonishing pieces at Laumeier Sculpture Park, you’ll want to carve out some time to spend here. Trust us.
2002; Cast Bronze
Location: Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, St. Louis, MO 63127 (Walking Roots at Lower Entrance off of Rott Road)
About the Artist: www.stevetobin.com