Orpheus and Apollo
Orpheus and Apollo in The Atrium Business & Conference Center at LaGuardia.

Orpheus and Apollo is a 1962 sculpture by Richard Lippold, an American sculptor known for his large-scale geometric constructions using wire as a medium. Lippold, who originally worked as an industrial engineer, collaborated with many of the leading architects of the time, including Philip Johnson and Pietro Belluschi. This sculpture depicts the figures of Apollo, the Greek god of music, poetry and light, and Orpheus, the musician and poet who attempted to summon his wife back from the underworld with music and song. 

Orpheus and Apollo was originally commissioned in 1962 by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, supported by a grant from the Ittleson Foundation, for display in the Grand Promenade of Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center, then under construction. According to a New York Times article published in 2015, the Hall’s architect, Max Abramovitz, challenged Lippold “to create a sculpture that would float in space and relate in a contemporary manner to the interior of the foyer just as the magnificent crystal chandeliers of a former day took command of their space.” 

In 2014, the artwork was removed in advance of the comprehensive renovation of the hall, now named David Geffen Hall, which was re-imagined by Diamond Schmitt Architects and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects + Partners. 

Finding a new home for the artwork was a challenge due to its highly complex geometry. Comprised of 180 bars of gleaming Muntz metal suspended by wires from the ceiling, the 4-ton soaring artwork is now a main feature of the Atrium at LaGuardia.

The reinstallation at LaGuardia Airport was the idea of architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who suggested that the Atrium would be an ideal location for a sculpture that was intended as a gift to the people of New York. The Port Authority and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts agreed, and worked together to restore the work and facilitate the sculpture’s move and installation. 

Orpheus and Apollo debuted at Lincoln Center in 1962. Image from Jack Manning: Photograph, 1996, The New York Times.
Orpheus and Apollo was the centerpiece of Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall. Image from Edward Crimmins: Removed: A New York City Art Treasure, Photograph, 2017, Flickr.
Orpheus and Apollo was inspired by Greek mythology. Image from Edward Crimmins: A Bird in Flight, Photograph, 2017, Flickr.
Lincoln Center commissioned Richard Lippold to design one of his famous abstract
metal sculptures. Image from John Schiff: Portrait photograph of Richard Lippold,
Photograph, Undated, Leo Baeck Institute.