Over the course of more than a century, Carnegie Museum of Art has gradually, if unintentionally, built an important collection of monumental mural art.
It began in 1905–1907 with the commission for a three-story mural for Carnegie Institute’s new building addition. John White Alexander’s Crowning of Labor is a smoke-filled allegory of industrial production bringing wealth and civilization to the people of Pittsburgh—Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth exemplified in the city’s premier cultural institution. The Scaife wing, added in 1974, acquired its own staircase mural in 1985, when Sol LeWitt designed two colorful compositions for that year’s Carnegie International exhibition; the wall painting is still on view, facing the museum’s dramatic Sculpture Court. The museum also displays murals made for other environments, such as Stuart Davis’s Composition Concrete from the 1957 Heinz corporate headquarters, and Jean Dunand’s gilt-and-lacqueur Chariot of Aurora, an Art Deco masterpiece made for the Normandie ocean liner launched in 1935. The mural format continues to appeal to contemporary artists, including Mel Bochner, whose 1981 wall painting Syncline was uncovered in 2010 in Gallery 16, and Chiho Aoshima’s unforgettable Magma Spirit Explodes.Tsunami is Dreadful from the 2004 Carnegie International.