Checkmate for public art installation of giant game pieces in Philadelphia

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Your Move (1996), a beloved public art installation in central Philadelphia, is making its final move after the municipal government announced plans to permanently do away with the work.

The installation by artists Daniel Joseph Martinez, Renée Petropoulis and Roger White, consists of oversize sculptures based on game pieces from popular board games including checkers, chess, Parcheesi, Monopoly, bingo and dominoes. The square it has long occupied at the foot of Philadelphia’s Municipal Services Building, Thomas Paine Plaza, is about to be renovated and due to “the artwork’s poor condition” as well as “ongoing expensive costs associated with its maintenance”, the city is opting for permanent removal, according to an announcement made last week.

The work’s removal started last Friday (26 May), though the city said Martinez, Petropoulis and White were informed of the city’s intention to deaccession Your Move in July 2022. They did not wish to repossess the work, so the city will dispose of it.

The sculpture, which was commissioned for $195,000 and originally featured 45 monumental game pieces, “has required extensive, exhaustive, and expensive restoration and conservation efforts to address issues of deterioration, graffiti, rusting, and other forms of damage”, according to the city’s statement. At the time of its dismantling, only 34 of the original 45 pieces were still on view.

The installation was originally commissioned under the city’s Percent for Art scheme, whereby 1% of municipal construction and renovation projects must go toward site-specific public art. By the same token, the renovation of Thomas Paine Plaza will ultimately result in the commissioning of a new public artwork for the redesigned square.

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