"Pumpkin Large" is the latest public art installment at the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines.


Jeff Fleming could've mistaken Tuesday afternoon's warm breeze for the cool, crisp gust of Christmas morning.

Fleming, director of the Des Moines Art Center, woke up "anxious, excited and thrilled" that after months of eagerly anticipating Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin Large,” which was finally going to be installed in the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park.

“We’ve seen lots and lots of images of the piece, but it looks so much better in person,” Fleming said. “It’s even more awe-inspiring than I had imagined.”

Fleming was among the myriad people who flocked to the Western Gateway to watch the newest piece's installation Tuesday. Construction workers at the brand-new Kum & Go headquarters could be seen taking breaks to sneak a peek.

Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Chris Diebel, owner of the nearby Southern-inspired restaurant Bubba, took advantage of the nice weather to walk over to watch before and after lunch.

“It’s not every day you see thousands of pounds of bronze fly through the sky,” he said.

The installation started with preparations at about 8 a.m., Fleming said. The pumpkin, which had been flown from London to Chicago and driven the rest of the way, arrived at the park around 10:30 a.m.

"Pumpkin Large” was then carried from the truck and placed onto a series of heavy-duty construction benches. Once unboxed, the piece was suspended from a crane.

Just after lunch, the Art Center’s installation crew started measuring where the steel pins in the bottom of the piece were and drilling corresponding holes into the pedestal on which the pumpkin would sit.

Once the measurements had been made and the holes drilled, the crane swung the 3,000-pound sculpture to the pedestal. The crew lined up the pins to the holes as though they were Lincoln logs and gently lowered the piece into place.

TOUR THE PARK: Map of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, photos and information about each work of art

By about 2:30 p.m., the pumpkin was sitting in its place the Des Moines Art Center hopes it will remain for decades to come.

Mickey Ryan, chief registrar for the Des Moines Art Center, said the installation went “very well.”

“Every new work comes with its own set of challenges, but, with this piece, every major phase has gone as planned,” she said.

The nearby Downtown School brought classes over to watch the installation process. Jennifer Mann’s 9- and 10-year-olds worked on observational drawings of the pumpkin as they asked Fleming questions about the work.

“We try to get out into the community as much as possible,” Mann said. “When they were redoing Grey’s Lake, we did water testing, and when we heard about this today, we had to come. We are focused on project-based learning, so we want to have firsthand experiences and learn from experts when possible.”

MORE: Get ready for a big, bold addition to the famous John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Landscaping still needs to be completed around the base of the sculpture's pedestal, but the piece itself is installed as it will stand (hopefully) forever, said Christine Crawford, spokeswoman for the Art Center.

After the pumpkin was mounted, the crowd quickly dwindled.

“It felt like we were the center of the universe for a while there,” Crawford said.

One of the leaving gapers shouted back: “In Des Moines, you were!”

Read or Share this story: