Ever wondered about the angel sculptures downtown? For an agricultural city complete with a plethora of western art, the heavenly reliefs might seem a little out of place in Cowtown. Today, we’re breaking down the history of the Bass Performance Hall angel sculptures.
Remind us where we are?
Two 48-foot tall angels adorn the East 4th Street Grand Facade of the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall. Hewn from Texas limestone quarried near Austin, the sculptures were installed in 1998 with wings flaring toward the heavens and golden horns trumpeting over the street.
The angels were created by Márton Váró, an artist born in the Transylvania region of Romania when it was still part of Hungary. Márton was approached by the Bass family when the 2,042-seat performance hall was still in design. He elected to create custom sculptures that complimented the loftiness of David M. Schwarz’s architectural design, rather than emphasizing the city’s cattle industry. Together with the vaulted halls, arcaded galleries, and Scott and Stuart Gentling’s painted dome, the angels transport the block-sized building into a cathedral for performing arts.
But how did he do it?
Márton, who works from an open-air studio in Irvine, Calif., carved three sets of angels at different scales — from two-foot-tall models to building-size mockups — to finalize the design and figure out how to install them. He needed to understand the proportion of the sculptures, which are roughly six times the size of a person, in relation to the viewer, so he used his daughter’s Barbie dolls for reference.
The sculptures were carved out of large numbered blocks that were transported and installed on the facade. They were so heavy — with 15 tons of stone per angel — that each piece required a finely tuned lifting device. The blocks hang from corresponding steel plates that are embedded in the concrete wall + no one block rests on another. The radiating angel wings were too delicate to be transported so they were carved in Fort Worth.
Wait, we wanna see
You can see the angels up close and personal from the balcony on the third floor. From this perspective, you’ll notice that the sculptures are not identical, but have subtle differences. Can you spot them?