Stanford University: Mozart I sculpture moves to School of Engineering

A delicate tangled web of gleaming metal now graces the lawn outside of Stanford’s Packard Electrical Engineering Building. The sculpture, titled Mozart I, was relocated in October 2021 from its original location by Meyer Library, where it resided since 1982. The move was initiated and funded by the Graduate School of Education to make way for its new building and landscape.

Mozart I’s current location is part of the School of Engineering’s movement to bring more public art to the engineering section of campus. It also recently welcomed Pars pro Toto, an installation on the Science and Engineering Quad of various-sized stone spheres created by international artist Alicja Kwade. The relocation of Mozart I was a collaborative effort between the School of Engineering; Lands, Buildings and Real Estate and the Public Art Committee.

“I’m really excited about its new home,” said Matthew Tiews, interim senior associate vice president for the arts. “It’s been wonderful working with the School of Engineering to really think about a site that’s going to be most effective for accomplishing all of these different goals.”

One goal shared by both the School of Engineering and the Public Art Committee is to intentionally bring together the different parts of the university. This relocation is one manifestation of a commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration.

Mozart I was created in 1982 by artist Kenneth Snelson (1927-2016) for Stanford University as a gift from alumni Jo Ann Schaaf and Julian Ganz, Jr. The sculpture plays off of tensegrity, a combination of tension and integrity, although Snelson preferred the term “floating compression.” Eighteen shining metal tubes point skyward at various angles, all carefully supported by steel cables. The placement of these features creates physical tension, which holds together the sleek but looming 24-by-24-by-30 foot sculpture. Mozart I is one of four Snelson works in the collection of the Cantor Arts Center.

For decades, Mozart I stood as part of a set of sculptures in the Canfield Court area between Meyer Library and the Stanford Law School. In its new location, the artwork will have more prominence and engagement with science and engineering faculty, students and staff.

The School of Engineering welcomed the new artwork with open arms.

“The Science and Engineering Quad was transformed this summer by the addition of Pars pro Toto, and we are thrilled to now have Mozart I just a few steps away,” said Jennifer Widom, the Frederick Emmons Terman Dean of the School of Engineering. “Although they are very different stylistically, both of these works bring together ideas and concepts in engineering, science and art.”

Mozart I beautifully illustrates what can happen when worlds collide.

“This sculpture is this interesting combination of artistic and engineering accomplishment,” said Tiews. “When different disciplines come together, there’s something exciting and new and visually compelling that can come out of that.”

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