SCULPTURE IN THE AGE OF DONATELLO

One room, twenty-three objects – sounds easy enough, but this show of Renaissance sculptures is one of great complexity and logistics. With renovations closing the Museo del Duomo in Florence, for the first time these masterpieces traveled to New York.

The design abstracts the space to an almost heavenly level so that the sculptures were paramount. The few pieces are slowly revealed to the visitor through the use of fabric scrim, which creates a sense of mystery and discovery. The circulation route takes one on a geographic path around the Duomo from one “porta” to the next. As part of an all-white, ethereal environment, the graphic system uses a plan of the church for orientation. In the center of the room are Brunelleschi’s original wooden models for the dome, lantern, and side chapels.

A number of the largest pieces weigh upward of 1,800 pounds. The plinths to support them weigh over 1,000 pounds and had steel internal structures. Given the size and weight, they were hoisted up the building’s elevator shaft and then placed with a forklift and gantry. The fabric was gently pulled back during the installation of the plinths and artwork and afterward fell back in place.

The art pieces arrived in three shipments, each a week apart. Due to the value of the art, the pieces were followed from the port to the museum by armed security and art handlers. To allow for the delicate transportation and scheduling, the fabrication of the exhibit was completed weeks before the pieces arrived.