City Life

Brown University features "Untitled (Bear/Lamp)" by Urs Fischer

Pondering College Hill's Big Blue Bear


One of the newest members of the Brown University community has been generating a lot of discussion. It isn’t a student or a distinguished faculty member, but a 24-foot-tall teddy bear with a desk lamp sticking out of its forehead. The bronze sculpture, “Untitled (Bear/Lamp),” was created in 2006 by Swiss artist Urs Fischer, is on loan to Brown from the private collection of Steven Cohen and will call the campus home for the next five years. The bright blue giant has its share of supporters and opponents, and its owner is certainly a part of that controversy thanks to a rather high profile insider trading scandal at the hedge fund he managed. There’s also the fact that the sculpture hardly meshes with its idyllic Ivy League surroundings.

In a lecture on campus in late October, Urs spoke about the overall philosophy of his work and stressed that when he made the sculpture a decade ago he didn’t make it for Brown. “Art is more of a question than an answer,” he says, adding that it’s not always the responsibility of an artist to dictate the interpretation of their work.

This is where the bear, affectionately nicknamed Blueno by students, earns its supporters. Fans appreciate the way it shakes up the status quo and inspires conversation and debate. “Everything here is so perfect. It throws off the balance in a healthy nature,” Urs says of its placement on the Ruth Simmons Quad, though he offered little in the way of insight into the sculpture’s origins. At best he confessed to an interest in seeing how two subjects might exist in the same space in impossible ways, hence a desk lamp protruding rather uncomfortably from the bear’s forehead and rump. In that sense, it would be easy to see how someone, especially a new college student, might relate to Blueno. It’s jarring to suddenly find yourself forced into a new space with something else, whether that something be a new world view, a new group of people or, in the case of one large blue bear, a common desk lamp.

Located on Ruth Simmons Quad between Waterman and George streets.

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