Metropolis, by David Partridge


The chief archivist thanks the artist Erika Takacs for directing him to this image of a sculptural mural called Metropolis, by David Partridge.

One cannot speculate as to any connections to Heliopoli; concepts of shared and concurrent dreams; affiliations to past, present or future; overlapping zeitgeists; or origins of any kind. It would be unfair to engage in reinterpretive mind dances. When we look at art, we extract meanings and correlations that relate directly to ourselves. We look in mirrors. We will note that it was a winning submission in an art competition in 1974, and leave it at that.

But it is a map.

According to the Web site from which the image comes, the artist “regards his sculpture as a symbolic interpretation of a great metropolis, but not of any city in particular.” It was created from more than 100,000 common nails. “The centre core is a circle of massed copper nails which indicate the heart of the city.”

The artist had to build his city one nail at a time. And why nails? Well, how many people comprise a city? How many books, buildings, streets, hopes, words, shoes, laughs, loves, and tears does one city make? One nail at a time …

Regardless of its origin or inspiration, it is a beautiful, meditative piece that the chief archivist is convinced he could spend a full hour just sitting in front of. And if it is not a map of a specific place, it is certainly a map toward a place.

Toward what? Now that is something one can speculate on ….

9 thoughts on “Metropolis, by David Partridge

  1. I’m happy I could contribute to the uncovering of Helipoli. One day thousands of people will flock here, and will take many pictures of this amazing installation, that was conserved in an excellent condition. I want to thank the chief archivist for the link to my site.

  2. David Partridge (1919-2006) was a dear friend of my grandparents, and I often visited his studio in Toronto when I was a teenager. I helped polish the heads of thousands of nails that went into his “nailies” and got to know the artist as a kind, thoughtful, cheerful man. His work was inspired by his first career as an RAF pilot, and are most certainly maps – many of them topographical: low undulated hills of nails. Metropolis hangs at the Toronto City Hall, and recalls the building’s own circular plan. Your evocative description would have pleased David!

  3. Thank you so much for your comment, Geoffrey. I wasn’t aware that Mr. Partridge had passed away only a few years ago. He certainly left a lasting legacy. This is a beautiful piece of art that I hope I can visit one day. I really do think I would stare and stare at it, entranced.

    It’s wonderful to hear from someone who knew him. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. The Internet certainly is making the world a smaller place.

  4. I am writting from England, I helped move an exhibition of David Partridges “Nailles” in London in about 1964. A difficult and painfull process. About 15 years ago i discovered one of the naillies from this period in a junk shop in North London, I had to rescue it,I think i I paid £10 for it. Its very heavy and i never had any where to display it so it was stacked in my studio. I am now in the process of moving and would love to find a home for it. Any ideas ? Its free.

  5. Dear Michael, as a sculptor myself I would be thrilled to have a piece of David Partridge! However, you might not be aware but his work might be worth quite a lot, as he is well recognized here in Canada.
    You might want to contact Waddingtons auction house in Toronto to inquire about its worth, as they auctioned off some of his works before.
    Take a look at this past auction page:

  6. Sheer pleasure to see David Partridge’s skills being recognised. I didn’t know heliopoli so delighted to come across it. He was a family friend, my parents buying several of his works when they all lived in the UK before returning to Canada, one of his gorgeous nailies now residing in my mother’s apt on Vancouver Island. David had retrieved an old door from a defunct dairy just off London’s Kings Road in the 1960’s and created a superb nailie. All the best from Carol Godsmark nee Reynolds (living in the UK).

    1. Thank you for visiting, Carol. This post does receive a fair amount of traffic, so people are looking up David Partridge’s name in search engines, which is good to see. He certainly deserves recognition.

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