Free Stamp

Making an Impression on Downtown Cleveland

What’s the deal with the big red stamp strewn in the grassy field next to Cleveland’s city hall?

Here’s the scoop: Free Stamp was commission by Standard Oil, now BP, to be installed in front of its corporate headquarters on Public Square. The artist, Swedish-born Claes Oldenburg and his wife Coosje van Bruggen, originally created it to stand upright, so that you could not see what was written on the stamp. The word “FREE” inscribed on its stamping surface is in reference to the Soldiers and Sailors monument that would have been right across the street from where it was supposed to have been installed.

However, plans changed when Standard Oil was bought by BP, and the new executives of the company decided they no longer wanted the piece of artwork. Consequently, it languished for years in a warehouse until BP donated it to the people of the City of Cleveland. Finally, in 1991, Free Stamp was installed in its current location and position.

The word FREE is facing BP Tower, so you can see the stamp and read its inscription from the BP’s corporate offices.

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