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Hard Cases

Brandon Larson on transporting a bovine head in toxic liquid and other art-handling nightmares.

The art: Damien Hirst, Philip (The Twelve Disciples), 1994
The challenge: It's a cow's head in formaldehyde. To limit exposure, "we shut down the floor, and engineers reversed the HVAC and pumped out the tank. Everyone had respirators and suits—it looked like a hazmat team." 
(1 of 4)

The art: Richard Serra, Gutter Corner Splash: Night Shift, 1969/1995
The challenge: It's lead. "For lead in general, it's plastic and blankets. You want to touch it as little as possible. The piece is so big, we left it in place and built a wall entombing it so it doesn't get damaged in construction."
(2 of 4)

The art: Kathryn Spence, Untitled (Mud Animal), 1997
The challenge: It's like a stuffed animal with a dried-mud shell and a collapsible core. "We essentially shrink-wrapped it in industrial-length Glad Wrap [Saran Wrap is too acidic], then very soft foam and a wooden cage."
(3 of 4)

The art: Anselm Kiefer, Osiris und Isis, 1985-1987
The challenge: It's a painting with lots of objects stuck to the surface. To keep them in place, "we got a ladder so our conservator could delicately wrap each piece in foam and tie it off. Then we put the whole thing in a travel frame."
(4 of 4)

Read more about making the new MOMA:
Introduction: Deconstructing MOMA
Phase One: Packing Up
Phase One: By the Numbers
Phase One: Movers and Shakers
Phase One: Hard Cases
Phase Two: The Road Show
Phase Two: Can I Play With Your Pollock?
Phase Two: Meanwhile, Back At The Fischer Collection
Phase Three: The Reboot
Phase Three: There Goes The Neighborhood


Originally published in the June 2013 issue of San Francisco

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