Smithsonian sculptures are damaged during parade

June 12, 1991|By Knight-Ridder

WASHINGTON -- The whirlwind of euphoria that marked the landing of military helicopters here for last weekend's Desert Storm victory celebration had more of an impact than some people thought.

A storm of flying footpath gravel created by hovering military helicopters damaged some of the 50 bronze sculptures in the Sculpture Gardens at Hirshhorn Museum on the Capitol Mall.

Museum workers, who quickly cleaned off the sculptures and wrapped them in blankets to protect them from further possible damage, met yesterday to inventory the damage and tally the repair costs. They have not yet determined the costs.

"It's a scientific, complicated process which requires careful scrutiny and analysis," said Sidney Lawrence, public affairs officer at the Hirshhorn. "Sculpture conservation is a slow process and there's technical analysis that has to go on and then you figure out what the treatment is going to be."

Flying gravel debris scratched and in some cases made small cracks in a number of the works.

None of the sculptures appeared to sustain damage beyond repair, but the preliminary surveys found that the first line of works facing the Mall area, which includes sculptures by, among others, Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore, absorbed the brunt of the gravel tempest.

The "Nymph -- Central Figure for the Three Graces," a 1930 work by French sculpture Aristide Maillol, suffered the most as the nude female statue had pitted indentations on her backside.

The garden area remained closed to the public throughout the weekend into yesterday morning when the last of the helicopters had safely departed.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gardens contain the Smithsonian's large and diverse collection of modern art. It has been open to the public since 1974. The Sculpture Gardens contain a number of master works by artists Auguste Rodin, Gaston Lachaise, Thomas Eakins and Henry Moore.

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