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The Story Behind Cupid's Span

Posted by GrayLineofSanFrancisco on August 24, 2020


Along the Embarcadero, south of the Ferry Building you will find Cupid’s Span. Being a simple person, I enjoyed the sculpture for its most obvious representation, Cupids Bow and Arrow. After reviewing the artists, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen who are married, I realized that there is much more to this than my surface understanding.

Initial ideas where to set the bow with the arrow pointing towards the sky. This position was later determined, by Cossje van Bruggen, to be “too stiff and literal.” Changing the focus of attention, by inverting the bow, opened many perspectives, ones that I never interpreted, but now seem so obvious and ingenious!

Placed upon a hill and utilizing the mythological account of Eros shooting his arrow into the earth to make it fertile. The idea of burying the arrowhead, and the central part of the bow, morphed the sculpture, capturing avenues of interpretation that were unavailable with the original design. Flipping the sculpture over, gave an appearance of a ship sailing into the bay, or a version of a suspension bridge, which spoke to Claes and Coosje as the perfect accompaniment to the site.

Commissioned by GAP founders Doris and Donald Fischer, completed in 2002.

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