Nari Ward Vertical Hold 1996

  • MoMA, Floor 2, 208 The David Geffen Wing

Ward creates large sculptures using objects that he finds. This artwork is inspired by “bottle trees,” African American objects created to protect the home and often shown in yards to ward off evil spirits. Walk around the sculpture. Notice the different types of bottles and how they connect. Choose one bottle. What evil spirit or force would you trap inside?

Kids label from 2023
Additional text

Vertical Hold is inspired by bottle trees, African American sacred objects that protect the home by trapping evil spirits. They are made by placing bottles on the branches of a tree. For this work, Ward collected discarded bottles on the outskirts of Sabbathday Lake, Maine, the last surviving community of Shakers (a Protestant sect known for celibacy and communal living). The bottles are suspended from the ceiling on a web of yarn whose pattern is evocative of a Shaker quilt. “The bottle was a metaphor for the idea of the spirit, something invisible but very present that can become a container,” Ward explained.

Gallery label from 2022
Yarn and bottles
107 x 30" (271.8 x 76.2 cm)
Gift of the Hudgins Family in memory of J. I. Nelson and Sarita Nelson-Nunnelee
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].