Installing “Deities in Stone” at San Francisco International Airport

Are you going on a fall sojourn through San Francisco International Airport anytime soon? If so, you may encounter some divine visitors from the Asian Art Museum. . Last week, museum staff oversaw the installation of Deities in Stone: Hindu Sculpture from Collections of the Asian Art Museum in the airport’s United Airlines terminal 3.

The latest in as series of collaborations between the Asian and SFO Museum, this exhibition features 32 Indian sculptures from the Avery Brundage Collection, many on view for the first time.

Unlike previous airport projects, Deities in Stone is an entirely new show created in consultation with curators from both institutions. It was a challenging show for all involved due to the unique nature of the airport gallery and the inherent difficulties of working with stone sculptures. Some of these objects weight as much as 400 pounds.

Handling stone sculpture requires teamwork, coordination, and a talented forklift driver. Although stone may look strong, it is not uncommon for carved stone to have previous repairs, hidden breaks, and delicate areas that can be damaged under the object’s own weight during movement. Rigging sculptures — the act of securing, lifting, and moving them — is a specialist’s art.

Mountmaking for the deities took months. Each sculpture must be secured from tipping in the event of an earthquake, a precaution for both art and the public. The steel mounts are custom fitted to the contours of each artwork. The mounts have integrated shock absorbers to counteract the vibrations within the terminal and the great mass of each sculpture is transferred down the mount into an underlying steel framework that distributes the weight.

Enjoy the weighty presences of Deities in Stone from now until February 2013.