An Iconic Frank Stella Painting Gets a New Lease on Life as a 98-Foot-Long Mural in Boston’s Seaport

"Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I)" is the Massachusetts native’s first work of public art in the city.

Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I) 1970 installed on the facade of One Seaport, Boston.
Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I) 1970 installed on the facade of One Seaport, Boston. Courtesy of WS Development.

Boston is celebrating Massachusetts native Frank Stella on a grand scale. Less than two weeks ago, a 98-foot-long, 18-foot-tall mural of Stella’s acclaimed 1970 painting Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I) was unveiled in the city’s Seaport district. 

The bright, abstract geometric composition was originally conceived as part of Stella’s influential “Protractor” series from the late 1960s, which were largely inspired by the geometric forms found in Islamic art. The series marked an important transitional phase between his early flat works and his later three-dimensional creations. The monumentally scaled Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I) also features many of the most iconic motifs from Stella’s oeuvre, including what he calls his “interlace,” “rainbow,” and “fan” shapes.  

WS Development, the primary developer responsible for the transformation of the city’s Seaport district, commissioned the work from Stella in collaboration with the Marianne Boesky Gallery, while creative house Justkids oversaw production. The massive installation, now visible on the facade of One Seaport at 60 Seaport Boulevard, is the latest project in a two-year-old initiative that has brought 10 works of public art to the district to date.

Frank Stella standing in front of the mural of his Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I) 1970 at the Boston Seaport.

Frank Stella standing in front of the mural of his Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I) 1970 at the Boston Seaport. Courtesy of WS Development.

“This piece is a beacon of joy and an invitation to smile for all those who see it,” said Samantha David, COO of WS Development. “It is a gift to our neighborhood and to our city and we couldn’t be more proud that [Stella] has entrusted us with it.”  

A native of Malden, Massachusetts, Frank Stella has long had ties to the Boston area, though this is the first public commission by the artist in the city. Before heading to Princeton, he studied at Phillips Academy in Andover, where he was first exposed to Abstract Expressionism. And though Stella would go on to make his career in New York City, he returned to give a series of influential lectures at Harvard University in Cambridge in the early 1980s, which would form the basis of his 1986 book, Working Space. 

The new mural is one of the largest public art installations of Stella’s more than 60-year career. 


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