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Seattle Art Museum's Hammering Man falls on September 28, 1991.

HistoryLink.org Essay 3541 : Printer-Friendly Format

On September 28, 1991, Hammering Man, a 48-foot-tall metal sculpture created by Jonathan Borofsky for the entrance to the new Seattle Art Museum, falls and is damaged. The 22,000-pound steel and aluminum figure is being hoisted into place by a crane when a lift-strap breaks. The sculpture falls just one foot, but has to be returned to its foundry in Connecticut for repair.

Photographer John Stamets (1949-2014) was standing on the roof of the Lusty Lady exotic dance parlor across 1st Avenue from the art museum with the aim of documenting the installation. Instead he captured dramatic images of the sculpture's tumble. Stamets had previously recorded the collapse of the University of Washington Husky Stadium's new bleachers in 1987, and for a time specialized in documenting doomed buildings and demolitions. In 1992 he joined the faculty at the University of Washington, serving for 22 years as a photographer and lecturer in the architecture department.

Hammering Man was commissioned by the Seattle Arts Commission and designed by Jonathan Borofsky who received $400,000 for the work. The piece features a motorized left arm which hammers four times a minute in honor of working people.

In September 1992, the repaired sculpture was reinstalled in front of the Seattle Art Museum at 1st Avenue and University Street in downtown Seattle.

Deloris Tarzan Ament, "Hammering Man Avoids Slamming Down This Year," The Seattle Times, September 13, 1992, p. B-1; Bob Lane, "Crashing Man," Ibid., September 29, 1991, p. B-1; Peter Kelley, "Memorial June 15 for UW Photographer, Lecturer John Stamets," University of Washington website accessed June 12, 2014 (http://www.washington.edu/news/2014/06/11/memorial-june-15-for-uw-photographer-lecturer-john-stamets/).
Note: This essay was expanded on September 28, 2006, and updated on June 12, 2014.

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Collapse of Hammering Man during installation at Seattle Art Museum photographed by John Stamets from the roof of the Lusty Lady exotic dance parlor, September 28, 1991
Photo by John Stamets, Copyright 1991, John Stamets

Detail of John Stamets photograph of collapse of Hammering Man sculpture during installation at Seattle Art Museum, September 28, 1991
Photo by John Stamets. Copyright 1991, John Stamets

Hammering Man (Jonathan Borofsky, 1991), 2000
Courtesy University of Washington

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