Restoring a 17.5 ton public sculpture is not as simple as sending out a team of workers to apply a new coat of paint. Restoration crews run the risk of colliding with the elements or worse, skipping certain nooks and crannies.
All that to say, Philadelphians shouldn’t panic as they pass an empty Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 25th Street. iroquois, the iconic 40-foot red-orange sculpture that has lived in the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 2007, will simply get a makeover in Delaware this summer, its first major conservation since arriving.
Seven workers wearing hard hats began the bolt-by-bolt dismantling process of the sculpture in a day-long operation Thursday morning using two cranes and a tray.
The Association for Public Art, which preserves and promotes the city’s public art, has noticed that the sculpture’s characteristic hue has been fading in recent years and has begun restoration plans.
“If the coating begins to disintegrate in any form, it exposes other parts of the sculpture to the elements that could further degrade,” said Laura Griffith, APA deputy director.
While iroquois Creator Mark di Suvero continues to make art in the late 80s, he could not oversee the dismantling of his sculpture in Philadelphia, sending studio representatives in his place. His studio and the aPA coordinated to bring the sculpture to Color Works, an industrial paint factory in Delaware.
iroquois is not new to travel. It made temporary stops in Texas and Michigan before finding permanent residence in Philadelphia and becoming a monument to the Eakins Oval, one of di Suvero’s seven sculptures named after Native American tribes.
The use of I-beams in the abstract piece exemplifies di Suvero’s penchant for industrial materials in his work, while the color and central knot are said to be a nod to China, where di Suvero was born to parents. Italians.
Di Suvero has previously compared his work to music, pointing out that a piece like iroquois can mean whatever a person is feeling at the moment, although requiring some form of interaction.
“I think in order to experience the work, and I strongly believe that art is an experience, you have to go into the work, you have to have it all around you and in that moment, you can feel what this sculpture can do,” the artist said when discussing his work with aPA.
Philadelphians and visitors can discover and browse iroquois as early as September, when the sculpture should return.
The cost of the restoration was not immediately available, but Griffith said the paint job is expected to take another 12 to 15 years.