'Off the Wall' painting installed at historic Towson courthouse

When the flowers are past blooming and the coming cold months turn the now-vibrant hues in the Courthouse Gardens in Towson brown, a piece of public art from the Walters Art Museum will ensure there's something colorful to admire on the streets of downtown Towson.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Walters Executive Director Julia Marciari-Alexander on Tuesday formally unveiled a replica of Giovanni Paolo Panini's 18th-century painting, "Alexander the Great Unties the Gordian Knot" outside the Historic County Courthouse as part of the Walters' "Off the Wall" campaign.


"We do this because we want to accomplish, at our very core, the mission of bringing art and people together for enjoyment, learning and discovery," Marciari-Alexander said during the event. "We believe you can do that in the museum best, but we want to incite people to come to the museum, so we're hoping we can accomplish that by bringing together of art and people for fun out here on the street.

The approximately 2-foot by 3-foot replica painting, which stands outside the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance to the County Courthouse, is one of six such paintings in Baltimore County and 34 total in the Baltimore area, Marciari-Alexander said.


Two Baltimore County sites — Robert E. Lee Park in Towson and Meadowood Regional Park in Brooklandville — were included in the first phase of installations. The County Courthouse is one of four county sites in the second phase, which also include Oregon Ridge Park in Hunt Valley, the Artful Gourmet in Owings Mills, and Chesterwood Park in Dundalk.

"Every one of the county executive's members of staff, and many members of the government here in Baltimore County have been pressing us to bring more of the off the wall campaign to Baltimore County, and we have done so," Marciari-Alexander said.

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Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson said, "Towson is a cosmopolitan community, and it's great we're making an effort to showcase public art in our downtown."

"I think this is fantastic," said Diane Margiotta, coordinator of the Towson Arts Collective. "Wouldn't it be great if there was something like this on every block?"

The replica paintings are created on waterproof canvas with gold acrylic frames and are chosen to match their settings by the Walters' staff. For example, the painting at Robert E. Lee Park is a soft French landscape echoing the serene feel of the park.

Knowing this, Kamenetz jokingly questioned whether a painting of a conqueror, Alexander the Great, was truly representative of him and Baltimore County's government.

The painting depicts a scene in the Turkish town of Gordian, where it was said that a golden wagon owned by King Midas' father was secured with a complicated knot.

Kamenetz said the belief was that whoever could untie the knot would become the conqueror of Asia. Instead of untying the knot, however, Alexander the Great simply cut the knot with his sword.


"The phrase ('cutting through the Gordian knot') really means that you can cut through all of the complication to it and get right to the problem and solve it instantly," Kamenetz said. "Then, I viewed that as a complement for what we're doing in Baltimore County."