Conservation Case Study: Tom's Cubicle

Outdoor Sculpture: Tom's Cubicle

Tom's Cubicle being flown in with crain

Alexander Calder's sculpture Tom's Cubicle (1967) is a stationary, abstract construction fabricated of black painted steel. It recently underwent conservation treatment because its painted surface had suffered significant ultraviolet light degradation and had developed a dull, faded, chalky appearance.

Tom's Cubicle was removed from the East Sculpture Terrace of the Museum's Kansas City Sculpture Park using a large tower crane. After transport to the painting facility, the sculpture was disassembled by removing the 40 large nuts and bolts which joined the 10 sections together. Using guidelines established by the Calder Foundation, Museum conservators worked with a local painting contractor to remove the degraded black polyurethane paint and primer from the sculpture’s surface.

After the sculpture was reassembled, it was painted with a spray application of zinc primer and a topcoat of matte black, acrylic urethane paint. This paint has been tested for its ability to withstand outdoor exposure, and the results indicate that Tom's Cubicle should withstand a minimum of 20 years of outdoor exposure. The sculpture should not need to be repainted again until 2026.

Tom's Cubicle being unwrapped

The 700-pound sculpture was then returned by a large truck to the Museum's Sculpture Park. Using a small crane, a crew of seven carefully installed Tom's Cubicle in its new location on the east side of the Bloch Building.     

A grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services helped fund the conservation of Tom's Cubicle.

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