Marshall Fine Art Services
MUSEUMS; Going Mobile? Well, Not Quite Yet
The New York Times
ONE exhibition ends, another opens. Few people beyond museum staff members have any idea what happens in between. But, as the Nassau County Museum of Art's staff was recently reminded, exhibitions don't just install themselves.

In an overly optimistic moment, the Roslyn Harbor museum announced last spring that a dozen Calder works would be installed in its 145-acre sculpture garden, the first time so many would be together on Long Island. ''This once-in-a-lifetime grouping of large-scale mobiles and stabiles will be on view from April 20 into 2006,'' read the announcement, which remained on the museum's Web site well into the summer.

The problem is, a dozen became just four after the museum confronted a series of logistical problems, any one of which could send a curator running for an aspirin.

Calder, who died in 1976, is revered as a pivotal influence on modern art and inventor of the art mobile. His outdoor sculptures, made of bolted steel, stand in public plazas around the world. Other works are likewise scattered across the globe, in private collections and museums. Thousands, including 450 sculptures, are under the care of the Calder Foundation, known among curators for being particularly cautious and adhering precisely to the artist's directions for how his work was to be shown.

''They delivered on the first three, but the rest never came through,'' said Constance Schwartz, the Nassau Museum's director and chief curator, who sighed as she said she remained hopeful that others would appear. As of last Wednesday, none had.

On display are a mobile-stabile on loan from the Museum of Modern Art and three large stabiles from the foundation. ''They look beautiful, but they're not the 12 we expected,'' she said. ''It's very disappointing.''

The museum's Calder shortage is due only in part to the significant cost of moving such large pieces, she said. It can vary from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per piece, depending on size and scale, Mitch Didier said. His Suffolk County company, Marshall Fine Arts, stores and moves art for some significant clients, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Modern.

One client paid $3,800 to move (but not install) a two-ton figurative piece from a Manhattan pier to the Hamptons, Mr. Didier said. Like some monumental Roy Lichtenstein works he recently installed in the Met's rooftop garden, bigger pieces can mean getting transport permits from multiple government agencies, specialized cradles, larger cranes, a crew of movers and mechanics, escort cars and many layers of protective wrapping.

The three pieces that the Calder Foundation loaned to the Nassau Museum had been on display at the Storm King Art Center in the aptly named town of Mountainville. The pieces were late in arriving at the Nassau Museum, because getting them down off the mountain proved harrowing.

''It poured and poured and poured,'' Ms. Schwartz said. ''We were knee deep in mud, and the trucks couldn't get up there.'' And even once they did, the crane couldn't gain a footing secure enough to haul the pieces onto the trucks, she said. If the rain hadn't finally eased, the sculptures would still be up there and the museum would have just one Calder on display.

''It seemed like everything happened at once,'' she said. ''We opened a new exhibition indoors and had our major fund-raising ball, which is a lot of work, and we were calling the Calder Foundation but just couldn't seem to pin them down.''

Alexander C.S. Rower, the foundation's director and Calder's grandson, was unavailable for comment.