Explore St. Louis

5 Works of St. Louis Public Art Not To Miss

Half the fun is where you find them.

The Gateway Arch—is it a work of architecture or sculpture? It's both, actually, and no trip to St. Louis is complete without standing next to one of its stainless steel legs and following the graceful line of its catenary curve (the shape a suspended chain takes) to its 630-foot-high apex. You can ride to the top, of course, for spectacular views of downtown St. Louis and nearby southern Illinois, or you can marvel at the way it changes shape at every available vantage point. Access to the Arch is in the process of being improved, and the process makes access a challenge. Persist; the Arch is open.

Gateway Arch
Gateway Arch (©D. Lancaster)

Standing at the corner of 10th and Market streets, Keith Haring's Untitled (Ringed Figure) welcomes visitors to Citygarden, downtown's amazing sculpture park/water park/meadow/forest. And beyond the obvious appeal of Haring's comic, semi-abstract figure, just seeing it means you've arrived at downtown's two most magical blocks, loaded with sculptures by (among others) Donald Baechler, Tom Otterness, Jim Dine, Fernand Legér, Aristide Maillol, Martin Puryear and Mark di Suvero, any one of which could make this list. As you stand in front of Ringed Figure, look left across 10th St. and you'll see the city's most hated piece of public art, Richard Serra's Twain. Now dive into Citygarden and enjoy.

Keith Haring's Untitled (Ringed Figure) at Citygarden
Keith Haring's Untitled (Ringed Figure) at Citygarden (©D. Lancaster)

Swedish sculptor Carl Milles shocked more than a few staid St. Louisans when he unveiled his monumental fountain group, The Meeting of the Waters (known locally as the Milles Fountain) in 1940 in Aloe Plaza, across Market St. from Union Station. The fourteen bronze figures—naiads, tritons and leaping fish symbolizing the Mississippi and Missouri rivers—were a bit too nude and anatomically correct for some folks, but their infectious energy won over even the prudes, and they cavort yet today amid jetting plumes of water. Getting here gets you right across the street from Union Station, which you should also visit.

Carl Milles' Meeting of the Waters in front of Union Station
Carl Milles' Meeting of the Waters in front of Union Station (©D. Lancaster)

A bit farther west in Grand Center, the Moto Wall Mural, painted on the side of the Moto Museum, has something most murals don't: an app. Designed and painted by national artists MOMO and Re+Public, the 85-foot-wide mural can be experienced as is or in an interactive mode through your smartphone or tablet with the downloadable app. Again, getting here is just the beginning; Grand Center is loaded with museums and galleries sure to sate your thirst for art. Come back at night and catch a show.

Moto Wall Mural in Grand Center
Moto Wall Mural in Grand Center (©D. Lancaster)

It's gigantic, in every sense monumental. Alexander Liberman's The Way dominates the landscape at Laumeier Sculpture Park like a battleship on the ocean with its eighteen salvaged steel oil tanks jutting in all directions painted a bold cadmium red. The piece was assembled on site in 1980, and has stood as the icon for Laumeier ever since. But as in every other case, visiting The Way comes with a bonus: the rest  of the nearly 100-acre sculpture park, with world-class pieces dotting the landscape in and out of the woods. Discovering them is one of St. Louis' great artistic pleasures.