- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A 31-foot sculpture by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein that survived the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will join the permanent collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Millions of dollars worth of American artwork was damaged or destroyed near the World Trade Center, but the giant blue “Modern Head” was unharmed except for a few scratches. The sculpture has been on loan outside the D.C. museum since last year.

The Smithsonian Board of Regents on Monday formally approved the gift from Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. The museum had approached Mr. Loria about purchasing the work, but he instead offered to donate the piece, museum officials said.

“It's probably the most significant gift of art, in terms of value of the artwork, to the Smithsonian,” said Wayne Clough, secretary of the museum complex.

Museum officials would not reveal the value of the artwork but said its significance extends beyond Sept. 11, 2001.

“As an artwork itself, it's unique,” said George Gurney, the museum's deputy chief curator in noting that it is the only blue sculpture of a series.

The painted stainless steel sculpture was created in 1989, part of a series that depict human figures resembling machines. Mr. Lichtenstein used abstract geometric forms similar to 1930s art deco design. In 1990, he painted the one sculpture blue and left the others unpainted.

“He's known much more for the pop cartoon-type images, but there's another side of [Mr. Lichtenstein] that really is a comment on his place in the art world,” Mr. Gurney said.

Curators admired how well the blue sculpture stood up against the museum's Greek Revival building, which it shares with the National Portrait Gallery. Mr. Gurney said it's a symbol for what visitors will find inside.

In 1996, the sculpture was set up in New York's Battery Park, one block from the World Trade Center. After the attacks in 2001, TV news clips showed the sculpture covered in dust and debris. It was removed in November 2001 and had since been on view at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, N.Y., and in Coral Gables, Fla.

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