The Story of the Christmas Angels at Rockefeller Plaza

Rockefeller Plaza during Christmas periodDuring my time working around the midtown area of New York City between 2006 and 2009, I would often pass through the triumphant heralding Christmas angels in Rockefeller Plaza during the winter.

The angels were made by Valerie Clarebout, an American artist of British birth. The artist was an avid traveler, and took artistic inspiration from her travels across Mexico, South America, Central America and Africa. Her tapestries and mosaics were influenced by local art.

Clarebout lived in Buenos Aires before World War II and returned to England to serve as a volunteer in the British air defense. She moved to the USA after the war, where she worked on several wire sculptures for Constitutional Plaza in Hartford, Saks Fifth Avenue and a New York World’s Fair exhibition.

Among her other works for Rockefeller Center were jacks-in-the-box, nine-foot tall snowmen and 12 elegant reindeer.

Her dozen eight-foot-high wire sculpture angels trumpet in the Christmas season for hundreds and thousands of New Yorkers and visitors every year.

Each sculpture is assembled with aluminum wire, paint, brass wire, and lights. At about eight feet high, they serenade those who pass them on the way to the enormous skating rink and Christmas tree at the Plaza itself.

They are an incredible testament to how art can create optical illusions for those who experience them, with the feeling of birch established through the paint, which makes the aluminum and brass wires seem like twigs twisted into shapes, ascending into the sky.

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