The first piece selected for the pilot project was Cygnus, the Swan.
The restoration of the Celestial Sphere will be directed and managed by Fine Arts Conservation, Inc. (FACI).
FACI has been involved with this project from the beginning in 1998 and has used its resources to search and secure an international team of experts to execute the restoration of this extremely significant work of art.
A rescue-plan is imperative to stop further decay and prevent the danger of implosion. Since 1999, a plan of action has been developed which identifies the several phases of examination, engineering consultations, logistical planning and actual restoration-work.
This will include re-gilding, which will also protect the surface from accelerated deterioration in the future. The steel armature will be examined and tested for fatigue. Where found intact, it will be resurfaced, sealed and re-used. Where found to be unstable, it will be replaced. Areas of bronze disease and corrosion of the meridians, axis, cage and socle will be cleaned, excavated and sealed. The vertical stress cracks in the socle, which is not weight bearing, would be repaired. All gilded areas of the cage, socle and meridians would be re-gilt to original standards. Rotational engineers will put in place replacement gears, a new drive shaft (internal) and motor with step-down transformer able to turn the sphere slowly¹ (as Manship had intended).
The Japanese shrubs which have severely damaged the basin must be removed and professionally treated to regain their original and even size. The basin has to be renewed and the tiles partly replaced. The landscaping of the basin would be completed with an illumination scheme.
If well maintained and in continuous rotation, the Sphere should be able to last in prime condition for at least a thirty years period after the completed restoration.
Who will do the job?
The execution of the actual restoration project will involve an international team of expert companies. The main contractor will be Swiss. As leader of the project the renown restoration expert, Abraham Joel of Fine Art Conservation Inc.¹ from New York has been engaged.
The restoration will be executed in joined venture with the main forger company originally cooperating with Paul Manship. This US-based company is still producing works for the Manship Estate.
The whole project is fully coordinated with the UN and will be completely documented. Educational aspects are being addressed where possible and appropriate.
How much it costs?
The amount necessary to complete the total restoration project of the Celestial
Sphere, including the original illumination, water- and landscaping and a financial fund for maintenance of the machinery, is budgeted at a total of USD 2.000.000.
A first donation by David Rockefeller Jr. allowed to execute the first phase of the project. The Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis Foundation together with individual gifts and contributions in kind by experts involved enabled to develop the project were it stands now.
For the next phases of the restoration project substantial financial support is budgeted by the City of Geneva. In addition MWPF trusts to receive grants from the Canton of Geneva and the Swiss Federation. In addition landscaping and other support in kind is expected from the UNOG, as well as the Swiss organisations which are responsible for the upkeep of the Palais des Nations and its garden.
The agreement reached with the contractor Fine Art Conservation Inc. concerning the sculpture itself is on the basis of a fixed price contract and therefore is without risk of an additional budget needed.
The work on the sculpture will be finalized within one year (depending on weather conditions) after the full amount necessary to complete the restoration has been acquired.
The Proposed Restoration
Scaffolding will be erected to enable the sculpture to be dismantled. The contractor with restorers will prepare and pack the elements of the Sphere to a location to be determined in conjunction with UNOG where restoration will be completed. On site facilities on the grounds may be an option and is included in the budget.
The overgrown trees framing the pool will be removed and replaced. To recycle the trees a sculptor who works in this medium will be contacted. The tiles of the pool and the pedestal that support the sculpture will be replaced. The depth of the pool will need to conform to current code limitations for public pools. Lights will be introduced within the pool.
The elements of the Sphere will be cleaned, repaired, gilded and patinated as required. Full documentation using various media will be agreed upon and fulfilled.
The engineers will design and install a motor, a primary gearbox, a drive shaft, and secondary gears. All these elements will be selected and/or custom made to the specifications provided by the engineers to enable the Sphere to rotate. The general contractors team will install the engineered elements.
A tent over the newly built pool will enable the restorers/contractors to reassemble the Sphere. All parties will be present at this phase.
Completion of the landscape and clean up of the site.