Jaume Plensa i Suñé; born 23 August 1955) is a Spanish visual artist, sculptor, designer and engraver. He is a versatile artist who has also created opera sets, video projections and acoustic installations. He worked with renowned Catalan theatrical group La Fura dels Baus. He is better known for his large sculptures made up of letters and numbers.
Plensa’s works include the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois, which opened in July 2004. The fountain is composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers. The towers are 50 feet (15 m) tall, and they use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to display digital videos on the inward faces. In the summer of 2007, he participated in the Chicago public art exhibit, Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet.
Another Plensa piece is Blake in Gateshead in North East England, a laser beam that on special occasions shines high into the night sky over Gateshead’s Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.
In 2007, working closely with a group of local ex-miners, he was also commissioned to create a new work on the landmark site of a former colliery near St Helens, Merseyside, as part of the Big Art Project, a major national public art initiative linked to Channel 4. Unveiled in spring 2009, Dream consists of an elongated white structure 20 metres (66 ft) tall, weighing 500 tons, which has been carved to resemble the head and neck of a young woman with her eyes closed in meditation. The structure is coated in sparkling white Spanish dolomite, as a contrast to the coal which used to be mined there.
On 16 June 2008, Plensa’s sculpture of a listening glass entitled Breathing was dedicated by the incumbent Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, as a memorial to journalists killed whilst undertaking their work. The sculpture in steel and glass sits atop a new wing of Broadcasting House in London. At 22:00 GMT each evening a beam of light will be projected from the sculpture extending 1 km into the sky for 30 minutes to coincide with the BBC News at Ten.
In 2010, Plensa’s Alchemist was installed in front of the Stratton Student Center, facing the main entrance of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is a large, hollow seated figure similar to other contemporary Plensa figures, except that it is composed of numerals and mathematical symbols, to honor MIT’s traditional STEM-focused teaching and research. The sculpture was donated anonymously on the occasion of MIT’s 150th anniversary.
El alma del Ebro was created for the International Exposition in Zaragoza, the theme of which was “Water and Sustainable Development”. It is eleven meters high, the sculpted letters representing cells of the human body which is over 60% water. Its white letters and hollow structure invite the viewer to look inside and reflect on the relationship between human beings and water. A similar sculpture entitled Singapore Soul (2011) was installed in front of the Ocean Financial Centre in Singapore. And an ensemble piece entitled I, You, She, He… with three figures composed of the letters, each seated on large flat boulders, can be seen at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
From May to mid-August 2011, the work Echo was displayed in Madison Square Park in Manhattan.
In November 2012, the Albright–Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York unveiled a 32-ton sculpture by Plensa called Laura. The 20-foot (6.1 m) tall sculpture is composed of 20 massive pieces of marble from the south of Spain.
In 2013, Plensa installed a sculpture named Ainsa I at the entrance of the Olin Business School of Washington University in St. Louis.
In 2017, Love was installed in the Frisian city of Leeuwarden, Netherlands, as the city was the European Capitol of Culture in 2018.
In 2019, the MACBA Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona organized the most ambitious solo exhibition in his hometown, curated by the museum’s director, Ferran Barenblit. The exhibition traveled to the Museum of Modern Art Moscow, where it achieved notable success.
In 2020, Dreaming was installed outside of the Richmond-Adelaide Centre in Toronto. Also in 2020, Behind the Walls was installed outside the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
Water’s Soul (2021) is along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway in the Newport section of Jersey City.