Christian de Vietri with Between Heaven and Earth in Zhengzhou, China. Completed in collaboration with UAP in 2018.
Photo: Courtesy of UAP

Tour the Stadium-Sized Foundry Where the World’s Biggest Sculptures Are Made

Acclaimed design studio UAP has taken over Polich Tallix in the Hudson Valley, where the likes of Jeff Koons and Isamu Noguchi created their masterpieces
Ursula von Rydingsvard’s Scientia. Photo: Michael Mundy

Driving along New York State Route 17 in Orange County, a stone’s throw from the heart of the Hudson Valley, it’s easy to coast past an enormous hangar-like structure on the side of the road. But this is no ordinary industrial lot; inside, at any given time, there may be a towering 12-foot bronze statue by Fernando Botero being restored by a master technician or hulking aluminum rectangles being hoisted, assembled, and welded into a tumbling arrangement by sculptor Joel Shapiro.

This monumental facility, which stretches the length of a football field and stands four stories high in Rock Tavern, New York, is the site of Polich Tallix (PTX), one of the country’s most accomplished fine-art foundries, which has produced works for the likes of Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Isamu Noguchi, Rona Pondick, and Martin Puryear, to name a few.

Unity by Hank Willis Thomas. Photo: Michael Mundy

Excelling in both traditional craftsmanship and technical innovation, the foundry’s team of expert artisans is highly sought-after for turning concepts, models, and digital files into bold works of art. It’s no wonder that, in 2015, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wanted to return to its original 1928 process of using lost-wax bronze casting for its famous Oscar statuettes, they were called on for the job.

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An artisan at work pouring metal. Photo: Courtesy of UAP and Polich Tallix

Recently, UAP, the internationally acclaimed art and design studio behind such iconic works as Ai Weiwei’s Gilded Cage, part of the Public Art Fund project “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” which saw 300 installations erected across New York City, or Nicole Eisenman’s massive bronze figures at the 2019 Whitney Biennial, acquired the historic foundry, heralding an exciting new chapter for the art of fabrication.

Inside Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry. Photo: Michael Mundy

Australian brothers Daniel and Matthew Tobin launched UAP in 1993 as Urban Artists with a collaborative approach meant to offer creatives the space to develop ideas, investigate materiality, and expand their practice. (UAP is headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, with fabrication facilities in Shanghai and a Manhattan design studio.) The formula was simple: Work hard, collaborate well, and deliver great projects. It’s an ethos similar to PTX’s own, which made the acquisition a natural fit. “Our greatest asset is the skill of our craftspeople, and, by joining forces, we have boldly expanded our capabilities,” Daniel says.

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Phillip K. Smith III’s sculptural installation Open Sky was revealed during 2018’s Salone del Mobile. Photo: Lance Gerber Studio/Courtesy of the artist and UAP

Each job is treated with a highly individualized approach, and no project seems to be off limits. Take, for example, a current collaboration with Hank Willis Thomas, who has been creating a 21-foot bronze sculpture of an arm and hand titled Unity since the work was commissioned in 2015; it will be installed at the base of the Manhattan Bridge. Thomas provided a 3-D file before having ten-pound foam patterns milled. After rubber and wax molds were made, the technicians then cast the wrist to the shoulder in silicon bronze. The sculpture will receive a patina finish supervised by the artist, and eventually the foundry will transport the completed piece.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, the acclaimed Brooklyn sculptor known for her monumental artworks in wood, has been working on Scientia, destined for a public park in Omaha, Nebraska. The artist provided a full-size pattern cut from wood, which the foundry will cast using both lost-wax and sand casting. The bronze casting sections will then be welded together, and the metal will be finished and chased.

Life-size figures by StudioEIS. Photo: Michael Mundy

All of this dizzying artistic magic and sheer physical labor is being realized in the vast stadium-like campus of the Rock Tavern foundry, with a steady stream of welding sparks illuminating the space like synchronized indoor fireworks displays. As molds are made and castings are readied, other projects can be caught in medias res, such as architect Thierry Despont’s 35-by-32-foot white bronze water wall slated to grace the façade of the new Manhattan residential building 220 Central Park South, or fragments of Elmgreen & Dragset’s Bent Pool, a whimsical aluminum sculpture that is being sand-casted and fabricated from a digital file and a 24-inch maquette. Visitors will find it outside the Miami Beach Convention Center Park during Art Basel in December.

Ai Weiwei’s Arch (2017), part of the Public Art Fund’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” project. Photo: Jason Wyche/Courtesy of Public Art Fund

“We are uniquely positioned at the intersection of fine art, construction, and architecture,” says Kevin Davey, UAP’s U.S. director. “And with the addition of the Rock Tavern facility, the future is superbright.”

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Late Fall issue in the section “Creative Fusion.” Subscribe to the magazine.

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