Quirky Attraction: World’s Largest Shuttlecocks

world's largest shuttlecocks

World’s Largest Shuttlecocks (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art)
Location: Kansas City, MO (4525 Oak St.)
When to visit: Anytime during daylight hours (The museum itself is open Wednesday through Sunday)
Cost: Free
Time needed to enjoy: 10 minutes
Website: www.nelson-atkins.org/exhibitions/inventing-the-shuttlecocks/

Visiting the World’s Largest Shuttlecocks

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen are the masters of quirky sculptures. The European husband and wife team behind the spoon and cherry in Minneapolis and the giant ‘Free’ stamp in Cleveland also created the world’s largest shuttlecocks, which sit outside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

When the artists were commissioned in 1994 to create a piece, they imagined the wide lawn around the museum as a badminton court, thus inspiring them to produce four 18-foot-tall shuttlecocks (also known as birdies.)

Each one weighs 5,500 pounds. This is an fathomably heavy imitation piece of racquet sport paraphernalia!

shuttlecock kansas city

Art critics and news reporters initially were not found of the shuttlecocks. One dismissed them as “not art.”

No doubt, many locals also questioned the giant pieces. But over time, they’re become an attraction for road trippers and tourists.

There are four birdies as part of the piece, spread out to look as though they would’ve landed in those exact spots in a game of badminton.

In addition to the works mentioned above, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen were also responsible for the giant binoculars in Venice, California, a giant flashlight in Las Vegas, and a giant Cupid bow and arrow in San Francisco.

They’re considered pop art pioneers, much like Andy Warhol.

Maintaining and Repairing the Shuttlecocks

Interestingly, the museum has taken steps to conserve the birdies by replacing their former paint-every-two-years strategy with a new system involving a special paint that lasts up to 15 years.

Back in 2002, they painstakingly dismantled the pieces, repaired cracks, repainted, and reassembled.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The shuttlecocks are free to visit, since they sit in the lawn outside the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

But it’s worth going inside the museum to what the rest of the place has to offer. As of this writing, the museum is closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and open 10 am to 5 most days, with later hours (9 pm) on Thursday and Friday.

Admission to the museum is totally free! Featured exhibitions may have an extra charge, however. They have paintings, modern art, and all types of media.

The museum parking lot also charges $14 per car, except for members. But you can also find a small amount of street parking in the area.

Personal photography is permitted inside the museum, so take your selfies and post on social media.

While you’re in Kansas City, see other quirky attractions like the Arabia Steamboat Museum, the National Airline History Museum, the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

See also our guide to Kansas City art, and to the historic 18th & Vine neighborhood. And see our detailed guide for things to do in the winter in KC.

Would you visit the giant shuttlecocks in Kansas City?

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