Wednesday, September 23, 2009

De-installing Aristide Maillol

Every now and then I get a call asking if I can undertake a project asap. The Art involved is usually valuable and difficult to handle. I almost always am unable to do a site visit. The information trail is just enough to understand scope and because of the immediacy of the project, resources both in help and tool choices are restricted or non-existent. Typically, it’s difficult to create a team on short notice, and since the percentage of projects which go through based on these requests may average one in ten, I am hesitant to ask other professionals without some guarantee. It’s like crying wolf, after a while who listens. I am sensitive about asking people to change or break their schedule, especially on the proposal level. Still, I’ll go ahead and try to figure out how to do them, I love the challenge and the work.

This project involved de-installing and packing a great sculpture by Aristide Maillol. It’s cast lead and preliminary weight estimate was at 2500 lbs. I knew the piece from books. As a sculptor I took survey art history classes in school and where I could, I searched for the pieces from favorite artists in Museums all over the country while I was driving an Art truck over the road. I had even worked on a similar sculpture years ago, a different posed figure by the same artist. I was comfortable with the scope as I understood and imagined it.

The client requested the sculpture to be palletized and because of the weight, I was responsible for loading of the sculpture onto the truck. The drivers were not prepared to handle something like this. The sculpture itself was in the middle of a large yard. I had no photos to describe the installation, only an earlier photo of a previous installation. I was told shrubs would have to be removed for access and the lawn surface protected from any equipment I chose to use. Everything I would need had to be brought and built on-site, from tools to materials. Luckily, a landscape company who worked there on the grounds was offered as help. I called the owner and it was a welcome conversation: they had an all terrain forklift and operator, experience in working with the sculpture and several guys available who could assist. By Friday we had finalized the deal. On early Sunday morning I left in my pickup truck with my carpentry setup, gantry and rigging equipment. Driving 500 miles, with a forecast of heavy rain, I hoped to get to the sculpture by late afternoon to take a look at what I was up against. Finally, on-site, looking at it reclining, I relaxed. At a hotel nearby, after beers and pizza, I finally went to sleep. In the morning there was a nearby Starbucks for coffee and a Home Depot to buy pallet and packing materials. The work day was overcast, but it did not rain. Starting at 8 am, everything had to be finished by 2-3 pm. The truck pickup was scheduled to arrive between 2-4 pm that same day with direct delivery to a different city the next morning 780 miles away. The clients representative was generous and gracious. Up close the sculpture was powerful masterwork.

* Video music: " Excerpt: When Giants Walked With Us"
Jesse Meman: Flute, Ben Thompson: Xylophone, Ben Gage: Guitar