Roy Lichtenstein: Making History

A well-known sculpture works its way back from 9/11 damage

Modern Head
Roy Lichtenstein, Modern Head, 1974/1989-1990. Amy Hutchins, SI

The pop artist Roy Lichtenstein created the 31-foot-tall aluminum sculpture Modern Head in 1989. Its owner, the James Goodman Gallery in New York, lent it to New York City's Battery Park in January of 1996. On September 11, 2001, the Head sustained no serious damage, although it was just one block from the World Trade Center. Federal agents sifting through the ruins left messages for each other taped to the Head's base. After 9/11, the sculpture moved to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida, where Samuel Rose, a commissioner for the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), encountered it. He arranged for the six-and-a-half-ton piece to be installed at SAAM's southwest corner, near the F Street entrance, where it will greet visitors for the next six months. "Our interest is in the Head as art," said SAAM curator George Gurney. "But its connection to September 11 does make it unique in our collection."