CHICAGO HAS A giant baseball bat, Philadelphia a clothespin, Des Moines an umbrella and Vail, Colo., a fishing pole hovering over a mountain stream. Now Los Angeles is getting its own outsized artifact by Pop artist Claes Oldenburg: the "Knife Ship," a 41-foot-long aquatic Swiss Army knife with motorized blades and corkscrew and a set of eight oars.
The "Knife Ship," a gift to the Museum of Contemporary Art, sailed into town recently in two trailer trucks. As of next year, it will be housed in the Temporary Contemporary. Meanwhile, it's in storage, awaiting a suitable temporary mooring. California Plaza, the Security Pacific Plaza and City Hall have all proved to be too small for its nearly 83-foot swath.
At New York City's Guggenheim Museum, where the sculpture was on display for two months, a 12-member crew worked for four days to install the knife. Two floor-to-ceiling windows were removed to bring it in, and six meetings were held to determine the best strategy to get it out.
A staffer there laughs, "We're trying to ease Los Angeles into what's coming."
Designed as a landlubbing artwork for Basel, Switzerland, the knife acquired nautical gear when Oldenburg and his wife, Coosje van Bruggen, decided to use it as the centerpiece of a 1985 multimedia event, " Il Corso del Coltello " ("The Course of the Knife"), and sail it down a Venice canal.