Newly on View: Herald Tribune Owls

The next time you enter the Grand Lobby of the museum, make sure you cast your eyes upwards. In one of the openings in the old brick façade you will find two newly on view objects. They are a Pair of Bronze Owls, two of twenty-two, which originally stood along the roof line of the old Herald Tribune building when it was built in 1893. At that time the owls eyes were electrified, blinking on and off. The owls were created by sculptor Antonin Jean Paul Carles. When the building was torn down in the 1920′s, the owls, Minerva and the Bell Ringers were given to NYU. The latter two sculptures and two owls with outstretched wings were loaned to the city in 1940 for display in Herald Square, where they remain today. The two owls that entered the Brooklyn Museum in 1971 are also on long-term loan from NYU.

To prepare for installation, the owls were first cleaned with a soft brush and vacuum to remove surface dust and then with a detergent and water to remove the more tenacious grime.

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Pictured above is Emy Kim, fourth year conservation intern from the NYU IFA Conservation Program, rinsing the owls.

Before the owls were placed into the brickwork they were secured to a mounting board for safe transport and installation. Since the owls weigh in at 251 and 232 pounds they had to first be rigged onto their respect mounting boards. Soldered brass mounts were then created to secure the owls to the boards.

Pictured below at left are Paul Daniel, mount maker, and Jakki Godfrey, project conservator, rigging one of the owls onto a mounting board. Pictured below at right is a detail image of the mounting system.

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Finally it was time to install the owls. The mounted owls were secured to a forklift and then gently lifted to their new location. Once in position the owls were secured in place to the brickwork.

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Pictured above at left is Jason Grunwald, art handler, making sure the owl is safe as it is raised. Pictured above at right are Jim Hayes, senior art handler and Barbara Duke, art handler securing one of the owls in place.