So long, “Nails’ Tales” — for now, at least.
UW-Madison will remove the controversial sculpture this summer from one of campus’ most prominent spots near the corner of Regent Street and Breese Terrace. It will go into storage until a new spot for it is found, officials said Friday.
The 50-foot concrete obelisk of footballs was intended to project power and strength, artist Donald Lipski said at the time of its unveiling outside Camp Randall in November 2005.
But critics say it brings to mind an ear of corn or male anatomy.
Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, 5th District, who represents the area, said earlier this year that the sculpture seemed out of place and she didn’t know anybody who would miss it.
A longtime employee at the nearby Mickies Dairy Bar, when asked his opinion by a local television reporter shortly after the sculpture’s debut, called it a “monstrosity” and said he was being diplomatic with his answer.
Lipski, a UW-Madison graduate in the Class of 1970, is an acclaimed artist with works installed across the country. He said that the university has been cordial and in contact with him over the past several months.
“I love the sculpture and I have a strong emotional attachment to it,” he said in an interview Friday. “While I’m sad to see it go, I think it’s part of a process and something new and wonderful will come of it.”
Lipski named the sculpture for his college roommate at UW-Madison, Eric “Nails” Nathan.
The sculpture will be removed sometime before the Badgers football season starts Sept. 7 and will remain in storage until a new site is selected, university spokesman John Lucas said.
The sculpture’s removal will make way for a restoration plan outside of the UW-Madison Field House and improvements to the plaza along its southwest side. Construction is slated to begin in February and finish before the 2020 football season starts.
The sculpture’s fate was cast into doubt earlier this year when it was noticeably absent from a concept sketch of the restoration and plaza project submitted to the city’s Joint Campus Committee.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with the sculpture,” Gary Brown, director of campus planning and landscape architecture, said in March. “It could stay. It could go. It could be relocated.”
University officials said the last option, relocation, is now on the table.
UW-Madison is committed to working with Lipski and campus stakeholders to find a new spot for the sculpture in the next year, Lucas said. The UW-Madison Campus Art Advisory Committee and the Wisconsin Arts Board have been involved in the discussion around the statue’s removal and relocation. Both groups are in general agreement that the artwork could be relocated with Lipskis’ involvement.
Lipski said the Field House improvements will be “great” and he understands why the university wants to move the sculpture.