Stainless Steel 'Venus de Milo' Soars 92 Feet Above SoMa

Venus de Milo at Trinity Plaza. | Photos: Elaine Gavin/Hoodline
By Elaine Gavin - Published on May 29, 2017.

The 92-foot steel Venus de Milo statue located at the Piazza Angelo in the courtyard of Trinity Plaza opened for public viewing on May 18. The tallest statue in San Francisco, it's just 20 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty (if you don't count her arm and torch), reports SFGate.

Ten years in the making, the sculpture designed by Lawrence Argent was erected in privately-owned public space on 8th Street between Market and Mission.

Angelo Sangiacomo, the landlord of Trinity Place, commissioned the $5 million plaza as part of the city's 1% For the Arts program, which requires private developers who build downtown to "acquire or commission" public art that's "equal to one percent of the development’s hard construction costs."

A marble rendering of Sangiacomo, who died in December 2015, and his late wife Yvonne are among many hidden pieces distributed throughout the plaza. A pathway that leads to the courtyard off 8th Street is named Yvonne's Way.

Entrance to plaza off 8th Street. 

Hoodline spoke with Argent about his experience designing the plaza. “There are 18 components that fill the plaza,” says Argent, "Each of the pieces had there own headache and their own epiphany."

The project isn't yet complete; the next phase of construction, which will extend out to Market Street, begins next month and is projected to be completed in 2021.

Argent, who studied at Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology  and the Rinehart School of Sculpture in Baltimore, has designed sculptures worldwide throughout his career. Argent met Sangiacomo through architect Chandra Cerrito and was hired on for the project immediately.

“I love the collaboration between those who are willing to take a risk on something they haven’t seen before,” Argent said.

The Venus statue merges with the parking lot below the plaza and had to fit into 1-acre lot. Argent said the base of the statue is only four feet across, but increases to 36 feet at its widest part.

Marble figure in plaza.

Built in sections, Venus was fabricated in China and shipped to San Francisco in 16 different containers. “Luckily, nothing was damaged,” said Argent.

Seven slabs of marble reveal sections of Greek figures emerging from the stone, as well as a carved portrait of Angelo and Yvonne Sangiacomo. A large marble table sits on the plot with a crease resembling a tablecloth carved into the stone.

Venus under construction. | Photo: Courtesy Lawrence Argent

There are also 46 marble pieces that represent different locations across the world using regional materials, said Argent. "We have granite from Africa, from Australia, from the US." All of the blocks around the site "have a connection to a certain time, place and geography," he said.

Images of Venus are also etched inside 7000-pound glass slabs located near the plaza's entrance.

Argent said the most rewarding part of the project was working with the "hundreds of people" who made it all come together.

"I think that’s the magic I take away from the last few projects I’ve done," he said. "They've all made connections and collaborated on something that’s left a mark on San Francisco."

Trinity Plaza will be open to the public daily from 8–6.

Argent said plaques are coming that will direct visitors to a web site where they can “get more information and a sense of history not only on the piece, but the whole framework of the plaza.”

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