ST. PETERSBURG — There was great excitement a few days ago as world-renowned artist Janet Echelman’s aerial net sculpture rose above the city’s new Pier District.
Mayor Rick Kriseman, a major champion of the billowing piece, tweeted his approval with a video.
But unexplained problems will bring the sculpture back to earth — temporarily. Echelman answered questions about the matter Monday following a Tampa Bay Times article in which the city referred to “an issue” with the piece.
But specifics remain unclear.
“Our studio fabricated the sculpture correctly, and it’s not atypical to make adjustments once the work is viewed onsite,” the Tampa-born artist said in a statement released to the Times through public relations firm B2 Communications.
One thing is certain. “These adjustments, which will be directed by the engineer, will involve removal and re-attachment of the netting,” Echelman said.
City architect Raul Quintana also did not say exactly what went wrong. “Once we receive the report from the sculptor’s engineer, we can be more specific,” he said in an email.
He said Echelman had notified the city Jan. 3 “of concerns with the net as it was being tensioned.”
In what appears to be unrelated to the situation, Quintana said there had been slight damage to the sculpture when it was shipped to the city. Several strands of netting were exposed when the crate arrived and appeared to have been torn, he said.
“However, this was minimal and replacement yarn was delivered by the fabricator almost immediately,” Quintana said.
Echelman, whose studio is in Massachusetts, has a $1.47 million contract with St. Petersburg for her work. She has permanent installations in such places as Porto, Portugal, Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle. Kriseman raised $1.25 million in private money to pay for St. Petersburg’s soaring sculpture that will be known as Bending Arc, and another $400,000 to help cover costs for the infrastructure, including the foundation, lighting, and four pylons.
Additionally, the city allocated $1.3 million in tax increment financing funds for the design and construction of the infrastructure. The Public Art Commission also committed $250,000 to the project.
Quintana said Wednesday that the city does not have a date for the removal of the netting. “We are still evaluating means and methods,” he said. "We will issue something publicly once we know more about the timing and method.”
Echelman said “the delivery schedule” of her piece is not expected to be affected by the additional work.
City officials have said the 26-acre Pier District will debut with a series of events starting in the spring and culminating on the Fourth of July.