The six maquette statues that once overlooked the University Centre for the Arts Atrium are now in storage after a structural problem with the Level 7 plant deck where they were installed was identifed last December.
The statues, characters from ‘The Audience’ sculpture by Canadian artist Michael Snow, were not in danger of falling but a restraining handrail was beginning to bend as a result of the pressure from two steel cables attached to two of the sculptures. Staff from the University of Lethbridge Facilities department erred on the side of caution and had the statues removed.“We have submitted a proposal to an engineering consultant engaged by Facilities for a permanent structural installation for the sculptures,” says Jon Oxley, Art Gallery administrative manager.
The firm will review the proposal and develop recommendations. The goal is to increase safety for the workers who use the deck to tend to the plants and gallery staff who check on the sculptures. The process is likely to take several months.
“The University is hoping and planning to have the six statues reinstalled as soon as possible, as well as the additional eight that are part of the original sculptural installation,” says Oxley. “Reinstallation will require a fair bit of work and dedicated space so it will depend on the needs identified by the engineering consultant and the Atrium’s schedule.”
In the meantime, the six sculptures have rejoined the eight other characters from ‘The Audience’ in storage in the U of L’s Art Vault. The maquettes, or preliminary models, are about a third of the size of the final figures that are suspended above the two main entrances to the Rogers Centre (Skydome) in Toronto. The 14 finished figures in Snow’s sculpture, made out of fiberglass, were installed in four separate boxes in 1989.An anonymous donor gave the maquettes to the U of L for its art collection in 1995. They are made of mixed media with wood, foam, burlap and plaster. They vary in size, with an average weight of 75 to 85 kilograms. The six maquettes, named Bruiser Guy, Binoculars, Point-to-Sky, Man & Child, The Waver and The Pointer, were installed in the Atrium in 2001. Art Gallery staff originally intended to display the other eight characters but circumstances and resources prevented that from happening.
While the statues are in storage, U of L student interns in Museum Studies will help conduct a conservation assessment. The maquettes will be cleaned and repaired, if needed.