Installation Honors Morton and Estelle Sosland
Commissioned by Hall Family Foundation

Andy Goldsworthy will build Walking Wall at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City in 2019. Over a period of five installments, the wall will literally move from the east part of the museum to its final resting place inside and outside the Bloch Building lenses. The stone wall will fulfill Goldsworthy’s long-held vision of creating a wall that inches its way through a place. Walking Wall will move from a five-acre piece of land east of the museum, onto the museum campus, and ultimately into the museum, drawing its way through the museum’s campus.

‘Walking Wall would connect the inside of the Museum to the outside, but just as importantly it would enact on its own terms the literal and figurative journey that almost every object in the museum will have made before entering the collections there.’
Andy Goldsworthy, Proposal 2018

Walking Wall continues Goldsworthy’s longstanding investigation into wall making; their index of passing time, their inherent association to boundaries and the differences and dialogues between British and American doctrines to these boundaries, and their ability to reflect on permanence and the transient. His first wall, Give and Take Wall, 1989, was made in response to a contractual need to establish a boundary between two fields in Scotland near to where the artist lives. The resulting wall was an expression of exchange and cooperation. In 1990 he constructed a wall in Cumbria, England that became locally known as the Wall that went for a walk — a reference to the poem Wall by Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson.

The wall walks the fell —
Grey millipede on slow
Stone hooves; Its slack back hollowed
At gulleys and grooves,
Or shouldering over
Old boulders
Too big to be rolled away.
Fallen fragments
Of the high crags
Crawl in the walk of the wall. A dry-stone wall
Is a wall and a wall,
Leaning together
Champion wrestlers),
Greening and weathering,
Flank by flank,
With filling of rubble
Between the two —
A double-rank
Stone dyke:
Flags and through-
stones jutting out sideways,
Like the steps of a stile.

A wall walks slowly,
At each give of the ground,
Each creak of the rock’s ribs,
It puts its foot gingerly,
Arches its hog-holes,
Lets cobble and knee-joint
Settle and grip.
As the slipping fellside
Erodes and drifts,
The wall shifts with it,
Is always on the move.

They built a wall slowly,
A day a week;
Built it to stand,
But not stand still.
They built a wall to walk.

(Sea to the West, 1981, Faber & Faber)

These words have become connected to many of Goldsworthy’s works and specifically to stone walls including one of his largest public installations to date, the iconic Storm King Wall, a 2,278-foot wall that snakes through the Storm King Art Center in New York.

The origin of the proposal for Walking Wall developed from Goldsworthy’s observation of the volume of walls in Kansas City.  William Rockhill Nelson is said to have built ‘miles’ of rock walls, and he chose to use native limestone quarried on his property for Oak Hall, the site where the Museum now sits.

Goldsworthy’s search for suitable stone for building Walking Wall led him to the Flint Hills where there is a history of quarrying limestone as well as the making of drystone walls. He had used Flint Hills Stone for a previous project in Wichita but was not aware of the prairie walls until his recent visit. Initially intending to use freshly quarried stone, Goldsworthy realized that they would look disconnected to the weathered walls around the Museum. 

As a result, Walking Wall will contain a proportion of fresh stone but will mainly consist of weathered material left over from old quarries,  old stone picked directly from the field, and old walls that were in the process being torn down. 

‘I want Walking Wall to feel connected to other walls in the vicinity of the Nelson-Atkins,’ said Goldsworthy. ‘The walls of the museum are a patchwork of different states of weathered stone, which will allow me to mix freshly quarried stone into the wall. Traveling to the Flint Hills to find the right stone for this project was an extraordinary process that made a deep impression on me.’

Two wallers from the United Kingdom (one of whom worked on the Storm King Wall), supported by US assistants will build the wall under Goldsworthy’s direction. The first section will be made in Spring 2019, and stones within that section will be moved to create the second section, culminating in the fifth and final section that will be complete in Fall 2019.  The work will begin on museum property that is just east of the museum. It will cross Rockhill Road and will require the closing of the road for three to four weeks, in cooperation with the Parks and Recreation Department of Kansas City.  The public will be allowed to watch the construction of the piece from a distance, allowing the viewer to see boundries cut across rather than created.  

‘This seemingly simple wall presents conceptual, philosophical, spiritual, and practical challenges that are both enriching and exciting,’ said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. ‘This poetic disruption pushes the boundaries of a city and nature and solidifies the tie between the museum and the neighborhood.’

The installation has been commissioned by the Hall Family Foundation in honor of Estelle and Morton Sosland and their passionate and longstanding commitment to the arts in Kansas City. The Soslands originally commissioned the Shuttlecocks, which have become icons for Kansas City. The four Shuttlecocks, by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen, were installed in the midst of great controversy in 1994.