Art On a Grand Scale

On a Grand Scale, an exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the museum’s collection of architectural and artistic replicas, established by Andrew Carnegie in 1907.

Artists have made plaster casts since the fourth century BCE, with the Greeks’ reproduction of marble statues, and artists continued to use casts into the 19th century. Reproductions existed as a cultural phenomenon, driven from a widespread view that a replica was better than an original. Today, most collections have been dispersed or destroyed due to a public surge against copying art, as well as the fragility of the artworks themselves.

“We will see a collection of the greatest things in the world in this, Architecture Hall,” Carnegie said in 1901. Within six years, Carnegie had amassed 144 architectural casts, 69 plaster reproductions of famous sculptures, and 360 replicas in bronze. As the largest architectural cast collection in the world (rivaled in depth only by Musée National des Monuments Français in Paris and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum), the collection has remained intact in its customized sky-lit space.

The hall was inspired by one of the seven wonders of the world, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, which is viewed as an architectural and aesthetic triumph. The collection features pieces representative of various artistic movements and periods. However, more than just providing aesthetic pleasure, the collection harkens back to our intellectual foundations with famous pieces representative of the Greeks. Reproductions of “Venus de Milo,” sculptures from the East Pediment of the Parthenon, Caryatides, and the “Diskobolos” are just a few of the works available.

The hall allows visitors to view a variety of architectural and sculptural works without leaving Pittsburgh.