Refinishing the cherry
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Refinishing the cherry

Walker Art Center, 1988
Lowering the cherry into place, Walker Art Center, 1988

On the morning of February 23, the cherry from Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry will be removed for restoration, by the Walker Art Center.  The beloved sculpture, part of the Walker’s permanent collection since 1988, when it was installed, is truly an iconic centerpiece of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

The process will begin with Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden Technician, Noah Wilson, being hoisted to the base of the cherry, where he will remove an access plate.  After climbing into the cherry, Wilson will prepare to remove the 8 bolts that secure the cherry to the spoon.  In the meantime, a 110 ton crane will position its boom over the stem of the cherry.  A single nylon strap will be secured to the stem, supporting the 2-ton stainless-steel ball and Noah, as he removes the bolts.  Gently, the crane operator will move the cherry away from the spoon, over the pond, to the frozen lawn, where Noah will exit through the access panel.

The cherry will then be placed onto the back of a double-drop flatbed trailer into a custom fabricated nest of plywood, foam, and moving pads.  The nylon strap, extending from the crane, will be repositioned and the cherry slowly rotated so that the tip of the stem makes contact with the padded surface of the trailers front end.  The work will be completely blanketed with padded material, strapped in place and covered with a tarp for transport to an industrial coating facility.

Cut-outs measuring the exact circumference of the cherry will be fabricated to ensure that the finished size of the restored cherry will not differ from the original.  Next, 11 existing coats of paint will be removed from its surface, as well as a thick layer of underlying fairing compound (auto-body putty).  The fairing compound used to create the precise spherical form of the cherry, has, after 21 years of Minnesota weather and a constant stream of water covering its surface during the warm months, reached the end of its useful life and is beginning to show signs of failure.  Upon close inspection of the surface of the cherry, a network of hairline cracks are present, and if left untreated, will continue to widen and lift away from the surface of the cherry.

Walker Art Center, 1988
Crane lowering the cherry, Walker Art Center, 1988

After reaching bare metal, the surface of the cherry will be sprayed with a yellow oxide epoxy primer, followed by a coat of gray epoxy primer.  Layers of a green immersion-grade fairing compound, the same product used to shape the hulls of ocean vessels, will be spread over the surface, allowed to dry, and be hand-sanded, building the cherry back to the appropriate circumference and re-creating is perfect spherical profile. 

Once the surface is pristine, another layer of gray epoxy will be sprayed on the work, before two coats of marine-grade “cherry red” polyurethane.  The top layer will be a clear-coat, which will provide a layer of protection from the paint-fading ultra-violet rays of the sun.  

Once the paint layers are fully cured, the work will be carefully packed and transported back to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to be reunited with the spoon.  I expect the process to be complete in early April.  Be sure to watch for status updates and progress reports.

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