Installing the bone chandelier

6 February 2013

It’s not often that Wellcome Collection hosts a work as physically imposing as Jodie Carey’s ‘bone chandelier’ In The Eyes of Others which features in Death: A self-portrait. Installing it was a challenge: the timelapse film above, by Ben Gilbert, shows the chandelier being assembled  over the course of a week. Our Exhibitions & Touring Manager Jane Holmes explains how we did it.

The artwork In The Eyes of Others by Jodie Carey weighs 2 tonnes and is 13 and a half feet high. It is actually the smallest of three chandeliers that Jodie has created. Due to the weight and height, we could only situate the artwork in the atrium area of the gallery, which has two existing steel beams that could be used for support. We invited Jodie to see the space before installing the work: she was delighted with it, because she loved the idea of visitors encountering the chandelier unexpectedly, and also of the chandelier entirely inhabiting the space.

After discussing the logistics of the installation with Jodie, the next step was to commission a structural engineer to work out the dimensions of a new structural beam with hook that could be supported off the two existing steel beams, enabling the chandelier to be centred in the space.

The chandelier itself was installed using a block and chain placed over the beam. The central steel frame was put together at ground level and hoisted up to allow each plaster bone to be wired to the frame individually. As the number of bones on the chandelier grew and the framework was filled, the chandelier was hoisted a little higher towards the beam, to allow the artist to install the bones at the next level.

When the chandelier was completely finished, we all watched anxiously as it was transferred from the hook of the tackle to the hook on the steel beam by a technician on a scissor lift. Thankfully the changeover was very smooth and we could all breathe out again!

Death: A Self-portrait runs until 24 February.