Clio Logo
This is a contributing entry for Downtown Charleston Public Art Tour and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
Hallelujah was constructed in 2009 by Albert Paley for the Clay Center for the Performing Arts. A variety of materials were used in the sculpture including weathering steel, stainless steel, and bronze. At sixty-eight feet tall and roughly forty feet in diameter, Hallelujah is Charleston's largest public sculpture.

  • Sculpture, Urban design, Art, Statue
  • Construction, Construction worker, Concrete, Engineering
  • A work crew installs Hallelujah.

Hallelujah dominates the front plaza of the Clay Center for the Performing Arts. The sculpture was commissioned and donated by the McGee Foundation. The work cost $900,000 with an additional $40,000 paid to landscape the Clay Center's courtyard. Hallelujah has been compared to a rocket ship, or the wreck of a great machine. Artist Albert Paley's use of multiple types of metal in the sculpture was a conscious decision. While the weathering and stainless steel are made to withstand the elements, the bronze was left untreated and quickly rusted. This was done intentionally to cause Hallelujah to age over time, much like leaves on a tree changing color. The work was constructed in New York, assembled there, then dismantled and re-assembled in Charleston. Considering that the sculpture weighs 198,000 pounds (99 tons), this was no small feat. Erection of the piece was completed in October of 2009. A retrospective exhibit titled, "Geometric, Staccato and Lyrical: The Sculpture of Albert Paley," documented Hallelujah's process of creation and was hosted at the Clay Center from 2010-2011.

Hallelujah has been the subject of mixed reactions from the community. Some laud the monumental work; it is quite rare for a city of only 50,000 to boast a public artwork of this scale. Additionally, Paley is an internationally renowned artist. Paley was the first sculptor to receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Architects, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art owns numerous works by the artist. Despite this, detractors of Hallelujah feel that the work is waste of money and resources, does not complement the Clay Center's architecture, or is an eyesore. The Clay Center welcomes the divisive opinions. Art curator Barbara Racker said of Hallelujah, "It's doing what art does best: creating a dialogue, getting a reaction. It would be disconcerting if no one said anything about it."1

1. Allen, David G. Paley Sculpture Highlights Clay Center's Art World Status, Halcyon West. December 4th 2009. Accessed December 14th 2020. http://halcyonwest.blogspot.com/2009/12/paley-sculpture-highlights-clay-centers.html.

Carter, Mimi. Corcoran Presents American Metal: the Art of Albert Paley, Corcoran. May 6th 2014. Accessed December 14th 2020. http://www.corcoran.org/sites/default/files/Corcoran%20Paley%20PR.pdf.

Clay Center Sculpture, Paley Studios. Accessed December 14th 2020. https://www.albertpaley.com/index.cfm?Page=Public%20Sculpture%20Clay%20Center.

Clay Center Sculpture Plaza, E.L. Robinson Engineering. Accessed December 14th 2020. https://www.elrobinsonengineering.com/projects/clay-center-sculpture-plaza.

GEOMETRIC, STACCATO AND LYRICAL: THE SCULPTURE OF ALBERT PALEY, Paley Studios. Accessed December 14th 2020. https://www.albertpaley.com/index.cfm?Page=Exhibition%20Clay%20Center.

Imbrogno, Douglas. ‘100 Seconds’: An outdoor sculpture hard to ignore, Charleston Gazette-Mail. November 21st 2017. Accessed December 14th 2020. https://www.wvgazettemail.com/_arts__entertainment/100-seconds-an-outdoor-sculpture-hard-to-ignore/article_9a6caf59-f031-5d23-aa9e-b2657549e2a0.html.

Paley, Albert. Artist Statement, Paley Studios. Accessed December 14th 2020. https://www.albertpaley.com/index.cfm?Page=Artist%20Statement.

West, Charles. Hallelujah at Night, The Charlestonian Blog. August 26th 2010. Accessed December 14th 2020. http://charlestonian.blogspot.com/2010/08/hallelujah-at-night.html.

White, Gary. Lake Mirror ‘Volunteerism’ Sculpture Finds Acceptance, The Ledger. July 23rd 2010. Accessed December 14th 2020. https://www.theledger.com/article/LK/20100723/News/608087586/LL.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Paley Studios. Accessed December 14, 2020. https://www.albertpaley.com/index.cfm?Page=Public%20Sculpture%20Clay%20Center.

Paley Studios. Accessed December 14, 2020. https://www.albertpaley.com/index.cfm?Page=Public%20Sculpture%20Clay%20Center.

Paley Studios. Accessed December 14, 2020. https://www.albertpaley.com/index.cfm?Page=Public%20Sculpture%20Clay%20Center.