"The Daunting Experience of Safely Transporting Large, Heavy Sculptures"
by Peter Strasser, Sculptor
March 12, 2015
Recently I was invited to display some of my sculptures along with a number of other talented fine artists in the art show, “Revealing Common Ground, “ at The Blue Hill Art and Cultural Center. The show, curated by Barbara Sussman, will be on view until April 17, 2015. Two of the four sculptures that I was displaying posed additional care and planning because of their great size. Each weigh between 1000-1500 lbs. and reach heights of 10 ft. Below is a guide for accomplishing the successful installing of these pieces.
There are 5 stages in the movement of large sculptures from artist studio to gallery space. The first stage is planning. An inspection of the gallery or space that they will be displayed in must be undertaken. Special attention must be given to any obstructions in moving them through the interior, such as door widths and heights, curbs, stairs and ceiling heights, as well as protection of the existing floor if necessary while transporting the heavy sculpture across the floor surfaces.
The second stage is protecting the piece for shipment.
It is necessary to secure the piece if it is fragile at the studio, and in my case,
wrapping each piece up with cloth moving blankets, and then a good deal of
plastic wrap, so the final piece resembles a huge mummy.
I always put two slings around the sculpture near the top and bottom
prior to wrapping so that once completed, one end of each sling still protrudes
from the protective wrapping for future lifting of the sculpture.
The third stage is to carefully lift the pieces into a truck and secure or onto an open
trailer which we did with my sculptures. I used a Kubota tractor with a front loader
and attachable forks to lift the sculptures up and onto a trailer, and another piece
onto an open pick-up truck. Once secure we slowly drove the pieces to Blue Hill Plaza.
The forth stage is unloading the 1000-1500 lb. sculptures. The trick is to carefully
remove them from the trailer and pick-up truck. Because the trailer had a ramp we
were able to wheel the larger sculpture off the trailer with half a dozen riggers.
The second large sculpture was hand carried by the six riggers from the rear of the
truck to the ground. Once on the ground the pieces were on a wheelbase dollies
and moved into the interior of the plaza for installation.
The fifth stage of the process is to stand up the sculptures and secure them to a pedestal in an area that the curator deems most fitting for display. My process was to use an aluminum gantry with a sliding trolley and chain hoist. Once the gantry was erected it is moved over the horizontal wooden sculpture. The sling that was secured in the protecting stage is hooked onto the chain hoist, and the process of hoisting the sculpture begins. This has to be done incredibly slow and carefully, constantly looking for any potential danger of something slipping or moving unexpectedly. Once the sculpture is standing in its upright position it is carefully unwrapped and any additional securing to their bases with bolts is completed.
An audible sigh of relief is heard when the sculpture is standing proudly on its pedestal and secured properly.