Seismic Safety of Sculptures

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901–1966), Tall Figure IV, 1960

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901–1966), Tall Figure IV, 1960, Bronze, Edition of 6, Cast No. 1, Norton Simon Art Foundation⁣

May 21, 2020

I have been involved with a major effort to improve the seismic safety of our sculpture over the past decade. One of the most exciting tools we have is the use of “base isolators,” and it takes a team of specialist consultants, engineers, fabricators and art handlers to design, fabricate and install one. Not every sculpture needs an isolator—just those that are considered the most vulnerable to earthquake damage. The mechanism allows the floor to move under the sculpture as the isolator’s three levels slide in any direction and return to center, thanks to a special array of springs and bearings. The mechanism is hidden inside the pedestal behind fall-away side walls, held loosely in place with magnets.

John Griswold is the Conservator of the Norton Simon Museum, where he leads efforts to preserve and care for the Simon collections.