The huge melancholy woman in Ron Mueck's "In Bed" sculpture, on the top floor of The Andy Warhol Museum, was a little extra tucked-in for a week in late January. From Jan. 22-29, plastic sheeting hung over the sculpture as a precaution against condensation forming on the metal edges of the skylight above it.
"It's condensation that's known to accumulate around the skylights on the roof of the building," says Rick Armstrong, The Warhol's communications manager. When the weather changes drastically, Armstrong says, water droplets sometimes gather on the metal and could drip. Rather than risk compromising the art, the plastic went up.
Ron Mueck at The Andy Warhol Museum, featuring seven of the London-based artist's large-scale but otherwise realistic mixed-media human portraits, opened Dec. 13 and runs through March. "In Bed," depicting a woman under a sheet with her head propped on a pillow, is about 20 feet long, 10 feet wide and 5 feet high.
"The reason [the roof problem has] been particularly annoying in this current exhibit is that we have a few pieces that are very large," says museum director Tom Sokolowski. "It's not something on a pedestal you can just move 5 feet. You need to take it apart and rejoin it."
"Because the problem can be predicted, the museum was able to safeguard the art," says Armstrong.
But if the problem can be predicted, why not just eliminate it outright?
"Right now our building is nigh on 14 years old, and things start cracking in the 14th year," says Sokolowski, referring to The Warhol's occupancy in the seven-story former Volkwein's Music building, built in 1913. Armstrong says that the museum has hired contractors to look into a solution for the top-floor skylights, and that a proposed solution is due in February.
"Even when the plastic was above it, you could see the sculpture," says Sokolowski, acknowledging that the canopy was "not particularly lovely. ... It wasn't the most perfect situation, but no one was [blocked] from seeing it. It's like sitting in a lesser seat or wearing a muffler and 16 pairs of gloves to see the Steelers."
Museum guests who expressed major disappointment with the canopy, says Sokolowski, were offered free tickets to return another day. Ticket prices at the Carnegie museums have recently nearly doubled, to $15.
"If anyone tells you that any museum is free of buckets on the floor, they're lying," Sokolowksi says. "I've seen buckets on the floor of the Louvre."