While We Await the Naked Lady on the Mall, Another Unconventional Sculpture Debuts

Arne Quinze, who rarely works in the U.S., built ‘Scarlet Natural Chaos’ for D.C.

“Scarlet Natural Chaos” going up at Sequoia along the Georgetown Waterfront. (Courtesy Arne Quinze/Facebook)
“Scarlet Natural Chaos” going up at Sequoia along the Georgetown Waterfront. (Courtesy Arne Quinze/Facebook)
Posted October 24, 2017 at 5:00am

Washington is known for its historic and old sculptures lining its public spaces but a giant nude woman on the National Mall might shake things up.

While D.C. residents have been debating putting the 45-foot-tall nude, entitled “R-Evolution,” in such a prominent space, another unconventional sculpture slipped into a different historic spot.

Scarlet Natural Chaos,” a huge, colorful, intricate and somewhat shocking 41-foot-high metal sculpture, was recently installed on the Georgetown Waterfront.

Since the unveiling, tourists and locals have remarked on its bold colors, huge size, confusing shape conglomeration, and how much it stands out along the river walkway.

From observations on a Saturday in early October, much of the controversy surrounding the sculpture is over how it obstructs the views downriver of the Kennedy Center and Watergate, for which the area is known.

But at least one person thought it complemented the view.

“Fantastic outdoor dining on the Potomac complete with a beautiful (and huge) glass art installation and a view of the Kennedy Center in the background,” an Open Table user commented Oct. 8. 

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The sculpture was created by Arne Quinze, the Belgian known for putting up controversial art in public spaces. Both he and R-Evolution’s creator, Marco Cochrane, have designed sculptures for Burning Man, the Nevada arts festival.

R-Evolution is expected to come to the National Mall in November. Organizers have raised about two-thirds of the $90,000 cost of transport and installation.

“Scarlet Natural Chaos” can be found on the property of the Sequoia restaurant. The iconic D.C. establishment has graced the Georgetown Waterfront on the Potomac River next to the elegant Swedish Embassy for nearly 30 years. Sequoia just reopened its doors after a multimillion-dollar renovation, which had a large focus on art.

Michael Weinstein, the founder of Sequoia’s parent company, Ark Restaurants, handpicked Quinze to create something for the restaurant’s outdoor space.

“Scarlet Natural Chaos” with the Kennedy Center in the distance. (Courtesy Arne Quinze/Facebook)

“I came across his work in Belgium and asked him if, when he was in the United States … he would see me,” Weinstein said. “He’s really busy and I said, ‘You’ve got to come here and see this space and where it’s located. I think you want to do something here.’”

He recalled Quinze walking around D.C. for days, getting a feel for the city, and then agreeing to do a sculpture. What that sculpture would be was completely up to Quinze.

“Basically, I don’t get in the way,” Weinstein said. “I said, ‘Arne, you do your thing.’ To me, he’s a major force in public works and I didn’t want to critique his work.”

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Weinstein, though, did have to present Quinze’s vision to the city to get approval.

“They were opposed to it because, I think, it was modern and they didn’t feel [it] was keeping with the gateway to Georgetown,” he said.

But Weinstein eventually got the sculpture approved. Although enormous, it was to scale with the restaurant’s huge building and the vast space around it.

Quinze came to D.C. in mid-September to set it up.

“He literally would walk around the whole piece and view it from many sides and calculate where it should go even though it was planned to go one place,” Weinstein said. “Some of those pieces, he sort of changed it a little bit as he was going up on the lifts so it would reflect the light the way he wanted it to reflect the light.”

“It was wonderful to watch,” he said.