Fesenmaier sculpture for sale

The kinetic sculpture called “Back and Forth” has sat in storage since it was decommissioned 18 years ago. The city now plans to sell it or dispose of it.

NEW ULM — A decommissioned sculpture created by artist Helen Fesenmaier is up for sale.

The City of New Ulm is soliciting bids for the sculpture “Back and Forth.” The sculpture was on display in the New Ulm Public Library until 2002.

The sculpture was a kinetic creation, with moving parts. Three shafts of steel and wood rotated slowly on pedestals. The sculpture was created by world-renowned artist Helen Fesenmaier. Fesenmaier was born in New Ulm in 1937 and went on to live in Venezuela and London.

In 1976, she visited New Ulm and entered a competition to design a central art piece in the library. She won. The nearly two-story sculpture called “Back and Forth,” also known as “Playback,” was on display in the New Ulm library for over 20 years before it was decommissioned.

Since it had moving parts, the mechanical aspects of the sculpture wore down and it began making noise when it operated. The sculpture was dismantled and placed in a storage facility. The storage location changed over time but the sculpture was finally stored in the Public Utilities water treatment plant on Water Street. The sculpture has since been exposed to mold and was partially submerged under water following a flooding event.

The city has decided to declare the sculpture surplus and place it out for bids. During Tuesday’s New Ulm City Council meeting, councilors discussed what should be done with the art piece.

City Manager Chris Dalton said the building the sculpture currently occupies has been sold, meaning the sculpture has to be moved.

The problem is, the city does not have another place to store it. Instead, the staff is seeking bids to sell it.

Dalton said the city would reach out to family members of Fesenmaier to determine if they want the piece.

The bidding period will be 30 days instead of 10 days. If in 30 days no bids are received and the family does not reach out to take the sculpture, it would be declared surplus property and disposed of.

The council authorized declaring the sculpture as surplus but was willing to accommodate those interesting in bidding. Dalton said some accommodation could be made for temporary storage, but the city would not hold onto the sculpture for another year.


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