Unique art requires Unusual Rigging

How Unusual Rigging helped a new exhibit at the Tate Modern appear to float in the air
Photo courtesy of Andrew Dunkley, Tate Photography.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Dunkley, Tate Photography.

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On October 14, Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall opened its doors to the largest work ever created by renowned American sculptor Richard Tuttle.

Entitled "I don’t know – the Weave of Textile Language", Tuttle’s piece combines vast swathes of fabrics to create a massive winged sculpture. Weighing in at 25 tonnes and measuring 50m long, production manager Jim Leaver faced the incredible challenge of how to suspend the artwork – not just safely over the heads of thousands of visitors, but also to create the illusion that the piece was floating effortlessly in the air.

It was this challenge that saw Leaver bring Unusual Rigging on board to help develop a solution.

Leon Ingram, production rigger at Unusual, said: “This was certainly an unusual project – even for us. The rigging had to be almost invisible – firstly because it was vital that the technology holding the artwork in place didn’t overshadow the hanging exhibit and secondly because the brief demanded that the piece appeared to be floating in air. Happily our wealth of experience in combining safety with optical illusions and working with pieces of art and historic artefacts stood us in good stead.”

Working with Jim, Leon and his team installed a hoist to the existing roof beams of the Turbine Hall and lifted 52cm Eurotruss to a working height. They then secured the lifting hoist for the piece and all dead hang brackets. Once this was done, the truss was lifted out just under the roof beams of the turbine hall and dead hung.

“With all the kit in place, the sections were brought in and assembled for us to lift. We stack built the artwork, lifting it when required. There’s always that added adrenalin when you know you’re handling a one-off masterpiece,” said Leon.

Once all the work was complete, Unusual’s team raised the sections to their final positions and suspended them on black wire to create the floating appearance.

Leaver said: “Unusual Rigging was able to bring a wealth of experience in art installation to a project which required not just expertise but also the ability to dovetail into the artistic process. This piece evolved as it was installed and Leon’s team were always engaged, flexible and responsive.”

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