Brancusi’s Endless Column Ensemble
Erected in 1934, the Endless Column by famed Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) has been hailed as one of the great works of twentieth-century outdoor sculpture. Commissioned by the Women's League of Gorj, Romania, to honor the soldiers who defended Târgu-Jiu against a German force in 1916, the tripartite ensemble comprises the Endless Column, a 30-meter-high column of zinc and brass-clad, cast-iron modules threaded onto a steel spine, and two travertine monuments, the Gate of the Kiss and the Table of Silence. Despite the ensemble's artistic importance, decades of exposure to the elements and poor maintenance during the Communist era took their toll on the sculptures, which, by the mid-1990s, were in dire need of conservation. There was also major disagreement among interested parties on how to conduct this specialized restoration project. The Endless Column ensemble was included in WMF's inaugural 1996 Watch list, which led to the establishment of a partnership between WMF, the Romanian government and the World Bank to finance the preservation of all three sculptures and a discussion of how to repair the landscape that had once connected the three pieces.
How We Helped
Listing Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column ensemble on the 1996 World Monuments Watch focused national and international attention on this deteriorating structure and its run-down park surroundings. WMF was able to secure international funding to ensure the completion of the project. A turning point in the development of the project was when WMF convened an on-site consensus building session in 1998 that forged agreement on a number of unresolved technical matters. Years of discussion gave way to action, and after final approvals were secured, the column structure was restored in a period of only six weeks. The travertine Gate of the Kiss and the Table of Silence conservation projects took another 18 months. In mid—project a vision for how to restore and conserve the park setting for these monuments was devised by Laurie Olin of the Olin Studio, which was implemented between 2004 and 2006. In 2011 WMF focused on the creation of a visitors center to complement the earlier conservation work.
Why It Matters
Brancusi’s Endless Column suffered an unfortunate fate during most of its relatively short life. In the early 1950’s, according to prevailing tastes of the time, it was deemed to be degenerate art and an attempt was made to destroy it. This unsuccessful effort caused damage to the steel and iron armature forming the spine of the column that led to water infiltration and corrosion problems. The shiny bronze finish of the column modules specified by Brancusi had completely eroded. Conservation of this structure resulted in the restoration of its original intended aesthetic and its important protective finish. The Brancusi Endless Column ensemble again serves as a historic site in Romania and a reminder of the genius of Brancusi, whose works can be found in museums throughout the world.