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Detroit Institute of Arts’ Gracehoper Sculpture to undergo major Conservation - Tony Smith’s monumental sculpture to be painted

Friday, June 28, 2013


(Detroit)—This summer the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) will paint Gracehoper, the monumental painted-steel sculpture by Tony Smith (1912–80) displayed on the museum’s North Lawn. Gracehoper has suffered from nearly 30 years of exposure to harsh weather and natural corrosion, and is in need of conservation treatment. The DIA will prepare, prime and paint Gracehoper using a durable black paint that is projected to last 15–20 years.

At the end of June a chain-link fence will be installed around the perimeter of the workspace and equipment will be brought in. A protective tent-like structure will cover Gracehoper and conservators will prepare the surface for treatment. Painting is expected to be completed in September.

The DIA will provide a viewing area near the museum’s Kirby Street entrance with benches, signs and a QR code that will take people to for more information. Recorded project updates and information about the sculpture will be available by calling 313-833-8620.

Gracehoper stands 22.5 ft. tall, 23 ft. deep, and 46 ft. long and weighs about 27 tons. It was fabricated in six segments, and in 1972 each section was assembled on site under the artist’s watchful eye. Constructed of bold modular forms based on tetrahedrons and octahedrons, the complex structure suggests industrial fabrication and the natural world. At the time, Gracehoper was the largest outdoor sculpture to be assembled in the United States, and Smith considered it to be among his most successful works.

The title comes from the central passage of “The Ondt and The Gracehoper” in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. In the novel, the “Gracehoper” is an insect representing progress, change and dynamism, very much like Smith’s own work.

Smith was an architect, sculptor and painter primarily known for his colossal geometric sculptures created in the last 20 years of his life. He is considered to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and is celebrated as a pioneering figure in the American minimalist art movement.

The project is funded by donations from individuals, corporations and foundations, including SYNC, Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation, the Dedalus Foundation and the Marjorie and Maxwell Jospey Foundation.

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA’s collection is known for its quality, range, and depth. The DIA’s mission is to create opportunities for all visitors to find personal meaning in art.

Programs are made possible with support from the City of Detroit and residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.


Contact: Pamela Marcil 313-833-7899