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The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking by Eli Broad

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Chapter 21

The Unreasonableness of Art and Artists

After Edye and I moved into our current home in Brentwood, we decided we wanted artwork as bold as the house itself. We knew exactly who to call: Richard Serra. He’s America’s greatest living sculptor, because he is brilliantly original, his work is always evolving, and he does things with steel that no one else would think possible.

I vividly recall the day Richard came over and walked around the yard, visualizing where the sculpture would go. His initial concept involved four 40-foot-tall steel columns. I pointed out that Edye and I live in earthquake country, which would make such a work unwise if not impossible. So Richard came up with a proposal that merely was unreasonable.

He wanted to stand four steel panels, each 15 feet high and 21 feet long, on the lawn and curve them into each other like a nest. Each steel panel would be 2 inches thick and weigh 15 tons. No place on the West Coast could handle that sort of job, so the panels would have to be fabricated at the Lukens Steel Company in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and then shaped at the old General Dynamics plant in Rhode Island. General Dynamics was willing to take on the work to fill the hours when they weren’t building nuclear submarines.

Then, because the panels were wider than any highway lane and taller than most overpasses, they would have to be trucked on four separate flatbed trucks across the country with multiple police escorts. When they arrived, we would have ...

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