Tony Smith's "Gracehoper" at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Follow the history of Tony Smith's work at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the installation and conservation treatment of his iconic sculpture, "Gracehoper".

DEDALUS FOUNDATION GRANT

Dedalus Foundation awards the DIA a generous grant toward the treatment of “Gracehoper”.

Tony Smith designs "Gracehoper"

Tony Smith designs the first version of "Gracehoper" as a cardboard maquette (small-scale model).

Smith's first exhibition in Michigan

Eight large-scale plywood mock-up’s of Tony Smith’s sculptures are featured as part of “Friends of Modern Art Annual: Form, Color, Image”, a group exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts. This is Smith's first exhibition in Michigan.

"Gracehoper" is commissioned

The Friends of Modern Art commission Tony Smith’s “Gracehoper” for the DIA’s north lawn to celebrate the opening of the North Wing.

Installation in Detroit

“Gracehoper” is fabricated in six enormous steel sections by Industrial Welding Company of Newark, New Jersey. The work is shipped to the museum to be installed and then painted on the north lawn. Tony Smith oversees the installation.

The Ellsworth Kelly Foundation awards Grant

The Ellsworth Kelly Foundation awards a generous grant in support of the conservation of contemporary art. A substantial portion of this is allocated to the "Gracehoper" conservation project.

"Gracehoper" is unveiled

The Friends of Modern Art, Board of Trustees of the Founders Society, and the Arts Commission “unveil” and dedicate “Gracehoper”. Former Curator Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. and Honorary Curator of Modern Art Lydia Winston Malbin speak at the evening events. Among the guests are crane operators and steel workers who constructed the sculpture.

First conservation treatment

“Gracehoper” receives its first conservation treatment since installation. The interior rust is removed, and the exterior surface is repaired and repainted.

CONCERNS ARISE REGARDING THE SCULPTURE’S INTEGRITY

Concerns arise over corrosion to the surface and structure of the sculpture. Several conservation surveys and condition reports are produced. It is determined that the interior and exterior surfaces are rusting, and that the exterior will need to be repainted.

Re-dedication ceremony

A re-dedication ceremony is held on the north lawn to celebrate the restoration of “Gracehoper”.

Additional treatment

The surface is lightly sanded, and an additional layer of black paint is added.

Conservation Reconsidered

After twenty-one years of weathering, the sculpture shows significant signs of wear. Rebecca Hart, associate curator of contemporary art, and John Steele, conservator of sculpture and decorative arts, begin to research treatment options, with the goal of restoring the surface to the artist’s original specifications.

Experts Assess the Sculpture's condition

Three conservators who specialize in the treatment of large-scale, outdoor, painted- steel sculpture are invited to assess the condition of “Gracehoper” and advise on treatment options. A structural engineering firm is commissioned to evaluate its overall stability.

Conservation Team Assembled

Steele and Hart assemble a team to develop the treatment plan for “Gracehoper”. After consulting one of the nation’s leading industrial painters who specializes large-scale, outdoor sculptures, the team begins to search for a paint that is durable, easy to apply, and honors the artist’s original aesthetic preferences.

SYNC fundraiser

SYNC, a Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art (FMCA) fundraiser for the “Gracehoper” conservation project, is highly successful.

Project postponed

The method of paint application on- site proves to be more complex than originally thought, and the conservation project is postponed for further research.

Site work begins

Visitors can watch the conservation process in action at the viewing station off Kirby Street. Remember to check the DIA’s “Gracehoper” website for periodic updates about the project!

The Jospey Foundation awards a grant

The Jospey Foundation awards a grant to the project.

THE BARNETT AND ANNALEE NEWMAN FOUNDATION GRANT

The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation donates a substantial gift in support of the project.

FINAL TESTS IN SEARCH OF A HIGH PERFORMANCE PAINT

A small group of specialists, led by the Tony Smith Estate, begins to systematically test and evaluate roller-applied, high- performance paints for use on “Gracehoper”.

HIGH- PERFORMANCE PAINT SELECTED

After two years of research, a high-performance paint that can be applied by roller is chosen for the “Gracehoper” project. The paint is durable, easy to apply, and commercially available should there be need for “touch-ups” in the future. A large tent is to be installed over the structure to maintain the ideal environment for painting.

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