How Do You Prepare Outdoor Art for a Hurricane Like Sandy?

Weathering a hurricane is stressful. You have to worry about evacuating your home, boarding up your windows, and preventing your cat from going nuts. If you organize public art exhibitions, you have to worry about something else, too: Is the art safe? While it goes without saying that the health and safety of humans is far more important than the health and safety of any material object, arts professionals are making sure the works in their charge are protected during Hurricane Sandy.

We checked in with curators and representatives from museums and public art organizations in and around New York to see how they are preparing for the approaching storm. Spoler alert: They’re all pretty thorough.

The 9/11 Memorial, located at Ground Zero, is among the most vulnerable sites in the city. A museum representative told ARTINFO that staff members have placed mobile pumps throughout the site — including inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which is still under construction — and drained the surrounding rainwater harvest tanks to ward against flooding. The memorial’s twin reflecting pools, which normally feature a steady flow of water, have also been turned off. The site will remain closed on Tuesday, October 30.

Upstate, the aptly-named Storm King sculpture park seems to be taking things in stride. “Storm King has been at this for 50 years and so have plans in place for storms and such,” museum representative Lisbeth Mark told ARTINFO via e-mail. The park’s director of operations Anthony Davidowitz noted that about 15 sculptures have been protected in some manner — either stored inside or tethered to the ground — in preparation for Sandy. He also added, “As most of our works are outdoors, most have a degree of weather tolerance.”

Socrates Sculpture Park, located in Long Island City, is also taking measures to secure its more vulnerable artworks. A studio manager temporarily removed the park’s inflatable Buddha sculpture, which normally floats on the East River anchored close to the park’s edge. A representative confirmed that water levels were rising at high tide and may overflow into the park before the storm passes.

Back on Manhattan, Madison Square Park (which looked positively peaceful when this reporter walked by this afternoon) has seen to it that its newly-installed sculpture “Buckyball” by Leo Villareal remains standing and in place. “We have taken the extra precautions of powering down the work until further notice and reinforcing casings around the electrical units,” said Madison Square Park Conservancy president Debbie Landau. “The work was engineered by Thornton Tomasetti and we feel confident that it can withstand these high winds but remain hopeful that the trees surrounding the work will also hold strong.”

The Public Art Fund, also no stranger to outdoor art, has been putting plans in place since early last week to safeguard its public works. Staff visited all its exhibition sites over the weekend, according to representative Kellie Honeycutt. The well-loved and well-attended “Discovering Columbus” installation towering above Columbus Circle (pictured) has been closed since yesterday afternoon, and ticketholders have been notified by e-mail. (The installation may look like a fancy Park Avenue living room, but that doesn’t mean it won’t lose power.)

Public Art Fund employees also deflated Paul McCarthy’s “Daddies Ketchup” — the 30-foot-tall inflatable sculpture located in City Hall Park — and have stored it for the duration of the storm.

Julia Halperin