Carl Andre 144 Lead Square 1969

  • Not on view

Four years working on the railroad, according to the artist, "completely tore me away from the pretensions of art, even my own, and I was back on the horizontal lines of steel and rust." With systems of regular units, Andre rejected the notion of sculpture mounted on a pedestal and viewed from a distance. His desire "to make something to be in the world" is realized by the fact that this sculpture can be inadvertently or purposefully walked on. However, recent research into the properties of lead compels the Museum to caution visitors against stepping on this work.

Gallery label from 2006.
Additional text

144 Lead Square is one of several works in which Andre abuts twelve-by-twelve-inch metal squares to form a larger square, also based on the number twelve (twelve feet to a side). In this case the metal is lead; elsewhere Andre uses aluminum, steel, zinc, copper, magnesium, and tin. What is fascinating is the complexity of the aesthetic ideas enforced in this simple plan.

Simplicity, after all, is itself an idea. 144 Lead Square implicitly argues with the sculptural conventions that it refuses: an elevating base or pedestal, the craft and talent of shaping, high finish, even three-dimensionality. (Only marginally volumetric, 144 Lead Square rises a mere 3/8 of an inch off the floor.) Instead, Andre uses a straightforward system to organize flat modules of basic materials. It is the system, and the shape and size of the materials themselves, that determine the work's form. Each part of this Minimalist work is the same proportion of the whole, and no part commands more attention than any other.

"My works are not the embodiments of ideas or conceptions," Andre has said. "My works are, in the words of William Blake, 'The lineaments of Gratified Desire.'" There is indeed a sensuousness in Andre's approach to materials, and to the artwork's relationship with the surrounding space. Like Minimalism generally, however, his sculpture is fundamentally impersonal, and evinces a solemn austerity.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 283.
Lead, 144 units
Overall 3/8" x 12' x 12' (1 x 367.8 x 367.8 cm)
Advisory Committee Fund
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].