Across the expansive grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, lie four large shuttlecocks. Looking like the remains of a giant’s game of badminton, the 18-foot displays were commissioned with funds gifted the museum from the Sosland family.
Created by the husband-and-wife team of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen, the aluminum and fiberglass pieces were installed over a five-day period in July 1994. Inspiration for the shuttlecocks came from a painting in the museum by Frederic Remington that featured Native Americans wearing feathered headdresses coupled with a satellite image of the museum grounds that resembled a grassy ball court.
Today, three of the displays lie on the front/south side of the museum building and the fourth is on the back/north side. This arrangement was deliberately chosen to incorporate the building into the overall design as the “net” for this larger-than-life set of game pieces.
As with many modern art installations, controversy surrounded both the decision to commission the work and its final placement on the museum’s grounds. Though initial reviews were a bit harsh, the displays have become a focal point for weddings and family outings as community acceptance has grown, and today the shuttlecocks are a permanent part of local folklore.