Needle, thread and knot

Author: Claes Olndenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Title: Needle, thread and knot
Date: 1999
Location: piazza Cadorna, Milan

Above: Claes Olndenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Needle, thread and knot, 1999, piazza Cadorna, Milan, photo by Andrea Scuratti – Comune di Milano.

The work is what its title declares: a large steel needle stuck in the ground of Piazza Cadorna holds a colorful thread, the two ends of which emerge from the ground several meters away, diligently knotted, sorting out from a pool of water. It is as if someone had wanted to mend two pieces of the city, with a gesture that takes on great importance due to the imposing dimensions of the sculpture.

Architect Gae Aulenti, in charge of rearranging the Foro Bonaparte area and giving new life to Piazza Cadorna, a multi-level road and rail hub, was introduced to Claes Oldenburg and his wife Coosje van Bruggen by art critic Germano Celant, who frequently wrote on these two pioneers of Pop Art and environmental art, world-wide famous and active. In May 1999, Aulenti indicated to them the place where the work was to be built and, that same evening, the two outlined the idea of ​​the needle, thread and knot in a quick watercolor sketch. That first sketch was followed by numerous studies and models, engineered and implemented in close collaboration with Milanese architect Pier Vincenzo Rinaldi, who held the role of producer.

The work was installed the same year, in record time, and immediately aroused, as always for large site-specific interventions of this kind, great enthusiasm and equally fiery criticism. Today the sculpture, even though controversies have not completely subsided and re-emerge from time to time, is a land-mark in the Milanese urban landscape, truly capable of “mending” a difficult urban fabric with a playful but imposing artistic sign: according to Aulenti herself, Piazza Cadorna, like many others in Milan, is not properly a square, but a widening, a place of connection and passage, and the Oldenburg’s work gives it new life and a stronger identity.