When Math Inspires Art: “Endless Ribbon” by Max Bill

Max Bill (1908-1994), Endless Ribbon, 1953, bronze, 125 x 125 x 80 cm. Middelheim Sculpture Park, Antwerp.

Endless Ribbon belongs to a series of works by the Swiss sculptor Max Bill based upon a geometric shape first discovered by the 19th century German mathematician A.F. Mobius (he of the famous “Mobius strip” in topology). You can imagine the form begins as a long flat strip, normally thought of as having two surfaces (top and bottom). Now cut and twist the strip in opposite directions, then join the ends together. By hat simple act, a remarkable object emerges – the Mobius strip. Instead of two surfaces, we now have only one.

When first encountering the sculpture for the first time, one will insist that it has two surfaces until we are proven wrong by moving our eyes or hands around it. The geometry that Endless Ribbon celebrates has inspired many other sculptural works both large and small, such as this lovely gold pendant by German jewelry designer, Niessing.

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