Updated May 13, 2021 - News

Des Moines' "naked trike angel" is coming out of hiding

Statue of a naked angel riding a tricycle

UpDown, an iconic Des Moines sculpture gets new life along a bike trail in Johnston. Photo courtesy of City of Johnston

If you grew up in Des Moines in the 70s and 80s, no doubt the "naked trike angel" at Merle Hay Mall popped into your nightmares.

  • Good news — it's returning to the public sphere, giving a whole new generation of Des Moines residents the sight of its bare thighs.

The sculpture's controversial history: Artist Mark Jacobsen, then 25, was commissioned to create new art for the mall and wanted to "do something to get attention," according to the Register.

  • His anguished naked angel crouched over a trike did the trick.

The iconic sculpture known as "UpDown" debuted at the mall in 1974 and was supposed to reflect the "highs and lows he experienced as a young man." Instead, mall-goers were offended.

  • The angel was quietly hidden away in 1990, until he was purchased by collector Jerri Scott, who said she got a kick out of it.

Driving the news: Scott told dsm Magazine she was ready to part with the sculpture as she prepares to downsize. It's lived in her backyard in the east side since 2001.

  • She donated the sculpture to the City of Johnston and it will make its public debut during an unveiling this Saturday at its new home along the bike trail near City Hall.

Her parting thoughts: "It's worth every dime I put into it," she told the Register in 2014.

What's next: See UpDown's official unveiling at the mayor's annual bike ride at 11:45am Saturday at Johnston City Hall.


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