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New Public Art Unveiled In Downtown Kansas City

photo: Laura Spencer/KCUR
Kemper Museum founder, Crosby Kemper, leans in for a closer look at Marc Swanson's "Descent of Civilization (Bison Memorial)" 2010, 9th and Broadway, KCMO

A new sculpture, "Descent of Civilization (Bison Memorial)" was unveiled Wednesday morning at the corner of 9th and Broadway in downtown Kansas City. The work pays tribute to the American buffalo or bison of the American West.


Kansas City, MO – Brooklyn-based artist Marc Swanson has been described as a social provocateur and alchemist.

Many of Swanson's works combine animal forms with light from mirrors or cut glass. His sculpture, a towering bronze skeleton called "Descent of Civilization (Bison Memorial)" was inspired by a photograph.

"(The photograph is) from the late 1800s," says Swanson. "It's a man standing on top of a pile of buffalo skulls."

Swanson grew up in rural New Hampshire, and says there's a duality to his work.

"'Descent of Civilization (Bison Memorial)' is very strong and majestic and bronze and bold," says Swanson. "But also it's a skeleton, and has a different read to it."

This marks the third sculpture placed in downtown Kansas City, through a Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and DST Systems, Inc. partnership.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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