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Fort Worth's Modern Art Museum: Where the Rust Begins 

Fort Worth has an alternative newspaper called the Fort Worth Weekly. Supposedly, this is the newspaper alternative to the mainstream Fort Worth newspaper known as the Star-Telegram. Sometimes it seems, perhaps, Fort Worth needs an alternative newspaper to the alternative newspaper. Witness the following, excerpted from the March 6-12 2003 Fort Worth Weekly...

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Static
Daring Dandruff
Static loves modern art, especially those live construction workers and the Cyclone fence around Vortex, the vertical Richard Serra sculpture threatening the sky
(1) above the new Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth. What you think is just a plain old fence is actually a statement on modern art's inaccessibility. And the construction workers: They're letting viewers in on the process of modern art. As a stroke of neo-conceptual inspiration, this set-up is pure genius.

But the people at the Modern won't take credit for it: they say the fence is there to keep people off the floor stones inside the sculpture. See, heavy foot traffic (2) has loosened some of those stones from their plastic support columns. So until the large men in hard hats and work boots finish replacing those plastic columns with formed concrete, the fence will be keeping the unwashed (basically, all of us) from experiencing the nearly 68-foot Twizzler bite. This makes Static a sad panda.

One thing Museum folks stressed to Static is that the fence, contrary to popular rumor (3), is not there to keep people from being hit with falling rust chips (4). Vortex is supposed to rust (and Museum personnel are supposed to continuously clean up what is shed). Made of Corten steel, the massive construct will slowly lose its skin to oxidation, changing from its current burnt-orange to a deep brown. Museum spokesperson Susan Rogers said that Vortex will probably achieve its patina in about a year. The rust is part of the art. Again, pure genius.(5)

1. Photo evidence would seem to indicate that this sculpture threatens more than the sky.
2. In three months heavy foot traffic required re-doing floor stones?
3. We think we may know the source of this so-called popular rumor.
4. If the temporary fence (which replaced crime scene-type tape and which has now been replaced with sawhorses), was not put there to keep people from being hit by falling rust, then what measures are being taken to protect museum visitors from falling rust projectiles? 
5. We recommend wearing a hard hat and protective goggles while exercising extreme caution when venturing within 20 feet of the pure genius of this sculpture. A recent tetanus shot is likely a good idea too.


Check out the following photo evidence yourself and see if you think this work of pure rusting genius presents a public health hazard....also check out the original rumor-mongering version...

Updated with new photos from 3/16/03...

Added 3/23/03---an engineer's calculation of the total weight of rust on the Vortex of Danger

3/30/03---the Fort Worth Disinformation Purveyor, also known as the Star-Telegram, on page 12D of the Sunday paper, in an article about the Vortex of Danger, said the sculpture "is having some skin problems....steel is peeling like a coed who spent too long on the beach during spring break. Flakes of rusted metal are blowing off the 67-foot-tall piece and littering the parking lot, leaving the sculpture as patchy as a pinto." And then this bit of disinformation which the following photos show to be false, "Recently the piece was surrounded by a temporary chain-link fence while large pieces of the surrounding sidewalk were being stabilized. That was fixed, then this skin problem surfaced." The so-called skin problem was surfaced well before the chain link fence. And on another note, why does the Star-Telegram call it a 'skin problem' if it is simply part of the expected natural process? Expected natural processes aren't problems.

  click a thumbnail to view a photo   

Here we see a large chunk of rust, a product of the natural patina producing aging of this large metallic experiment in controlled chaos. Some of the chunks of rust are quite large. Laying on the ground. The rust chunks are easily broken into smaller pieces. It can be assumed that the rust chunks on the ground are the shattered remnants of larger pieces which fell from varying heights. There is no way to know how large these rust chunks may be when they break loose. It can also be assumed that, so far, only the ground has broken a rust chunk's fall and that so far a large rust chunk hasn't shattered into smaller pieces after hitting a person.

And now we see that same large chunk of rust in the photo above, landing on a hand. Now imagine this as a ground bound projectile falling from the top of this 68 foot decomposing health hazard. Imagine this chunk landing on a baby in a stroller, the baby's parents looking up, admiring the 'sculpture' not realizing that they were in the Vortex of Danger.

Based on measurement specifications for the Vortex of Danger sculpture found on the Fort Worth Modern Museum's website  and by measuring and weighing a chunk of rust found laying on the ground beneath the Vortex of Danger, the Eyes on Texas engineer was able to calculate an estimate of the weight of the rust hovering above visitors. 

10,489.94 sq. ft. of metal (2 sides/7 panels) 230 tons
sample rust piece 6.76 sq. in. weighing .2 oz.

(.2 oz./6.76)(144 sq. in./sq. ft.)(1 lb./16 oz.)(10489.94 sq. ft.) = 2793 lbs. of rust

It would appear that approximately 20% of the 2793 pounds of rust has already fallen, which leaves well over a ton still in place waiting for its appointment with destiny. Or the hapless head or eyes of an unwary art lover.

A little chunk of rust easily removed. Technically a human hand is part of Mother Nature, so this act is not disturbing the natural patina achieving process. Would you like to have a chunk of rust of this size land in your eye as you gaze skyward, not gazing at the threatening sky as FW Weekly described, but at the threatening sculpture that these photos so clearly show?
The growing pile of fallen rust. Contrary to what the Museum spokesperson claims it would seem the only cleanup being accomplished is by the winds of the same Mother Nature who is working so hard to help the sculpture achieve its patina.

Here you can gaze skyward, virtually, as this photo looks towards the top of the Vortex of Danger, from inside, standing on the apparently recovered floor stones which are now guarded by sawhorses easily thwarted. You can see at the top of the Vortex the gathering danger of fresh chunks of rust preparing to fall, preferably benignly to join the growing mess on the ground, preferably not to land on some tender spot on an innocent museum goer. It would seem at least a warning sign should put in place, saying something like, 'Art is Meant to be Challenging, and this Art is Meant to be Dangerous. Look Skyward with Extreme Caution. Hard Hats & Protective Goggles Available at Museum Information Desk'

Here we see the chain link fence which supposedly protected the floor stones while they were repaired and which mysteriously coincided with large piles of rust somehow ending up on the ground. However, despite the temporary lessening of chunks of rust, fresh corrosion is making a new batch of projectiles, soon to be finding their way ground ward as part of this year long patina achieving process.

An overview of the Vortex sculpture and the new Modern Art Museum on the day the chain link fence was in place.


Six days after the most recent visit (as seen above) a return to the Vortex of Danger showed the area cleaned of most Rust Fallout (for the first time since the scandal erupted). And for the first time since crime scene type tape blocked entry, followed by a chain link fence, followed by sawhorses, access was no longer blocked to the interior echo chamber of this controversial allegedly dangerous sculpture. It was easy to see fresh pieces of rusted metal preparing to leave the sculpture. Yet, still, no warning sign was noted.  

rustplus2.jpg (30390 bytes) A line of unsuspecting art lovers make their way into the Vortex of Danger.
sunrust.jpg (15513 bytes) In this photo we see a group of museum visitors enjoy hearing the echoes inside the Vortex of Danger, unaware that looming overhead are large pieces of metal which could come plummeting earthward at any moment, a plummeting possibly caused by the oblivious-to-danger museum visitor's joyful echoes possibly loosening a menacing snow-like rust avalanche of heavy metal. 
sunrust2.jpg (14915 bytes) Here we see, far above the blissfully unaware  ground level echo causers, large blisters of rusted metal, looking as if they could come loose and fall at any moment.
sunrust4.jpg (29991 bytes) A large chunk of rust readying itself for its inevitable detachment from this decomposing sculpture, like a giant blemish on an acne plagued teenager's face. Where might this popped pimple land?
sunrust3.jpg (22573 bytes) Is this the rust chunk in its final resting place? Atop an innocent art lover's head? Was this painful? Was any tissue damaged? Have the lawyers been summoned?
sunrust5.jpg (19681 bytes) We brought in an engineer to examine the Vortex of Danger. Here we see him examining the welds which hold the rusting monolith together. The engineer's comments were not reassuring. It would seem some sort of warning sign would be very apropos, it is tornado season afterall....
rustplus.jpg (23003 bytes) This very young art lover is demonstrating the safest way to visit the interior of the Vortex of Danger. Because the walls lean inward, chunks of rust plummeting onto visitors from high above land towards the interior of the space; thus bracing oneself up against the interior wall is slightly safer. 

We suspect this look at the hidden travails of experiencing modern art may come as a surprise to some art lovers, since while most people realize art is challenging, different, original, and many other things, most people have no idea that art can also be dangerous. This Vortex sculpture stands as a monument to the Danger of Art. In front of the acclaimed new Fort Worth Modern Art Museum. Wear goggles and a hard hat. But bring your own. The Museum does not provide them...or acknowledge you need them. Or a tetanus shot.

Totally un-rust-related, the following are 3 views from inside the Modern Museum, in front of which the Vortex of Danger stands guard.

rustplus3.jpg (27317 bytes) It is not known if this work of art is called the Ladder to the Vortex of Danger. Or what.
rustplus5.jpg (25941 bytes) The interior of the Modern Museum has floor to ceiling windows which look across a pond providing the most attractive view of beautiful downtown Fort Worth available. 
rustplus4.jpg (10083 bytes) It is not known if this 'Car Wash' sign is an art installation or not. It is visible from inside the museum. It may be an Andy Warhol work. Or Roy Lichenstein. Or maybe it is just a Car Wash sign. Modern Art is so difficult to understand sometimes.

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