By Marlene Worhach
In February of 2013, ARTEX Fine Art Services had the opportunity to become involved in a wonderful conservation project undertaken by the Pérez Art Museum of Miami (PAMM – formerly the Miami Art Museum) when we were asked to provide crating and transportation services for their Louise Nevelson sculpture, Dream House XLIII (1973).
It was ARTEX’s responsibility to bring our experience and expertise to the table in a collaborative effort with the staff of PAMM and Caryatid Conservation Services to accomplish a safe and secure move for the sculpture.
It is customary to examine artwork on site prior to crating to evaluate its weight, structural integrity and surface characteristics. All of these factors will directly affect crate design. The weight influences the design of the bottom/pallet. The structural integrity and surface issues will determine the type and placement of support bracing and contact points on the artwork.
An assessment for crating was done by Will Oliveras, Crating Manager for ARTEX Fort Lauderdale, in collaboration with Naomi Patterson, Senior Register, PAMM, and her registrarial staff. The piece was found to be structurally stable, but portions of the surface paint were in an extremely fragile condition, displaying cracked paint. The surface issues were the primary concern, followed by the logistical maneuvering that would be needed to negotiate a tall, heavy crate through doorways of varying heights. This second issue dictated that the exterior crate dimensions be as small as possible within safe parameters. A collaborative decision was made to move the piece to the ARTEX Fort Lauderdale facility so that more detailed measurements could be taken to address these two issues.
The sculpture was transported from the Museum in the “ride flat” orientation (on its back). This was determined by ARTEX and Museum staff to be the safest and most stable position for the paint layer during transport. The surface of a wooden pallet was fully padded with polyurethane foam. The sculpture was stabilized in position on the padded pallet with strategically placed two-inch cotton webbing straps (avoiding contact with areas having unstable paint) and foam bumpers around all sides. The sculpture was then transported via a temperature-controlled, air-ride-equipped vehicle to ARTEX and placed in a climate-controlled storage area.
The crate needed to meet several needs; it would serve to protect the sculpture while being transported to Caryatid Conservation Services, and while being maneuvered through doorways. All doorway, hall and elevator dimensions at the conservation studio were factored into the crate design. The crate would be used again for the transport from the conservation studio to the new Pérez Art Museum of Miami, as well as serve to protect the piece in storage when not on view.
A crate was fabricated that allowed access into the crate interior from the front and back sides to facilitate careful placing of bracing, with good visibility of the piece during packing. The sculpture was braced inside the crate to permit the expected leaning and tilting of the crate that would be needed at delivery, and prevent any shifting of the sculpture during this activity. All Ethafoam padding (closed-cell polyethylene) was covered with Tyvek (a flash-spun, high-density polyethylene fiber material) to provide a non-abrasive surface where the brace padding comes in contact with the sculpture. Bolt-plate hardware was chosen for durability and was used on the internal bracing and exterior lid.
A comparison of dimensions for the smallest possible crate that could be produced, and the dimensions for the access points at the conservation studio, indicated the crate would be a very tight fit along certain points on the move path. To address this concern, and to ensure the smoothest possible delivery, a “dry run” was undertaken in March 2013 with the finished empty crate. This confirmed that there was room for the crate to safely pass through all doorways, and provided detailed information on how much the crate would need to be lifted, leaned or tilted to move through low doorways. It also confirmed many art handlers would be needed to safely handle the weight.
All of the pre-planning paid off. In May 2013, ARTEX delivered and unpacked the sculpture without any problems. When lead conservator Stephanie Hornbeck examined the empty crate, she found no detached paint flakes – a serious concern with the fragile surface – confirming that the crate had protected the sculpture very well during transport. The empty crate was brought back to ARTEX for storage while the sculpture is being conserved.
We look forward to a very smooth pick-up and transport to the Pérez Art Museum of Miami when the time comes.
Marlene Worhach is Director of Marketing and Business Development for ARTEX Fine Art Services, a fine art storage, transportation, packing and handling company.
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