a controversial artwork could be reinstalled in paris


The recent passing of artist Richard Serra has reignited discussion in Paris surrounding one of his most debated works, ‘Clara-Clara.’ Serra, a legend of contemporary art, was renowned for his large-scale, site-specific sculptures. He created a legacy that continues to spark conversation, particularly in Paris where ‘Clara-Clara’ has been in storage for over three decades.


The colossal sculpture, named after the artist’s wife, is composed of two curving, 36-meter (118-foot) sections of Corten steel. It was commissioned by the Centre Pompidou for a retrospective of the artist in 1983, and was meant to occupy the forum, or Pit, of the museum. Due to its size and weight of nearly 120 tons, it was installed at the entrance to the Tuileries Gardens, a prominent location within Paris’ historic center. Here, the work framed the Louvre Museum from one end and the large obelisk from the Temple of Luxor in the Place de la Concorde from the other.

richard serra clara-clara‘Clara-Clara’ temporary reinstalled at Tuileries Gardens, Paris in 2008 | image © Tybo



the legacy of richard serra’s ‘clara-clara’


Of course, the imposing presence of Richard Serra’s ‘Clara-Clara’ contrasted with the classical design principles of the gardens, originally landscaped by André Le Nôtre, the designer of the gardens of Versailles. Public reception was divided, with some appreciating the way the skewed surfaces challenged the established order, while others found it to be clashing and visually jarring.


In 1985, just two years after its installation, the city of Paris acquired ‘Clara-Clara’ and moved the work to the smaller Parc de Choisy in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. This marked the beginning of a long ‘purgatory’ for the sculpture, as described by Le Monde. There, it was recreationally defaced with graffiti by locals until 1993 when Paris officials again removed it and stored it out of sight.


‘Clara-Clara’ was resurrected and reinstalled in its proper place in the Tuileries Gardens in 2008 for an annual contemporary art exhibition, Monumenta. It was the first time it had been displayed for fifteen years. Since then, the work has been in the care of the Fonds Municipaux d’Art Contemporain (FMAC), the city department responsible for managing Paris’ vast collection of over 23,000 artworks and overseeing restoration projects.

richard serra clara-clara
the work framed the Louvre Museum from one end and the Temple of Luxor from the other | image © Tybo



Following Serra’s death, there seems to be a renewed push to find a suitable location for the sculpture. Aurelien Véron, a member of the opposition party Groupe Changer Paris, has publicly called for ‘Clara-Clara’ to be displayed again in a prominent location, addressing the mayor’s office in a post on Twitter/X: ‘Do you know where the work [Clara-Clara of Richard Serra] owned by the City of Paris has gone? Major work with high financial value… [and] historical value. What future holds for such a major sculpture?


The city’s cultural department is reportedly exploring ‘three possibilities in the historic heart of Paris,’ suggesting a potential compromise that integrates the work into the urban fabric while respecting its artistic merit. Whether ‘Clara-Clara’ will finally find a permanent home in Paris remains to be seen.