Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Jun Kaneko Sculptures Give New Meaning to the Term ‘Handle With Care’
Gail Severn shows off Jun Kaneko’s “Untitled” sculpture, still under wraps, as Shannon Daley’s gallery dog supervises.
Thursday, July 1, 2021


It wasn’t your average UPS delivery.

The giant trucks pulling up in front of Gail Severn Gallery just before noon Monday came bearing at least 30 large glazed ceramic pieces created by Jun Kaneko. Among them, one that weighed 3,000 pounds.

The work will be the centerpiece of the gallery’s first Gallery Walk since the COVID pandemic on Friday.

Workers roll a much smaller sculpture in the “Dango” series into the gallery.

A small crowd gathered outside the gallery as four workers experienced in moving the gallery’s fine art rolled the piece on a mini-excavator into the gallery’s main exhibition space through large doors as tall as the gallery’s 22-foot ceilings.

“It’s always a little scary when you’re handling big expensive pieces like this,” said Marcelino Bacza, one of the movers. “But, after so many years working for Gail, we’ve got a good idea how to do it safely.”

Inside, Shannon Daley spread pictures of each art piece around the floor showing workers where they were to go. The smaller works sat in crates lining the street, which the City of Ketchum had allowed to be blocked temporarily to accommodate the unloading process.

“You don’t just ship fine art via UPS,” said Gallery Owner Gail Severn. “You have to arrange for a dedicated truck, not one that stops along the way to transfer the art to other trucks.”

Gail Severn takes a picture of the moving process for one of the smaller pieces.

Shipping art has become especially problematic since the pandemic. That’s partly due to the trucking shortage. But, also, because the many pandemic refugees moving to Idaho from California and other states have hired fine arts movers to carry their prized pieces to their new homes.

The 108-by-56-by-32.75-inch “Untitled” glazed ceramic that towered over the other pieces was the last of the “Dango” series to be addressed. It remained sitting, wrapped in six quilts, Wednesday afternoon despite temperatures hovering in the high 80s outside.

Once workers had attended to the other pieces, they moved the 3,000-pound piece off the pallet it sat on in a process called stair stepping. They put a pallet a half-inch lower alongside and moved “Untitled” over onto the lower pallet ever so carefully.

After stabilizing it on the lower pallet, they repeated the process with a pallet another half-inch lower until they had finally settled it on the floor.

“Untitled,” still wrapped, takes its place among some of Jun Kaneko’s other sculptures.

The exhibition will be fully in place when Gail Severn Gallery opens its doors for a mini-Gallery Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 2. Other galleries participating in the walk include the other First Avenue galleries—Friesen Gallery and Kneeland Gallery.

MESH Gallery, on Fourth Street across from Atkinsons’ Market, also plans to show off its latest landscape photographs during the evening.

Kaneko is a Japanese ceramicist who came to the United States in 1963 to study at the Chouinard Institute of Art. That’s where he became mesmerized with sculptural ceramics through his association with Fred Marer, a mathematics professor who built an extraordinary collection of more than 1,500 contemporary ceramics.

Kaneko is known especially for his large-scale monumental dango sculptures—dango a Japanese term for “rounded form” or “dumpling.”

Part of the art exhibition lines 4th Street temporarily.

He now works in a massive kiln near Omaha, Neb., that is taller than the Gail Severn Gallery’s 22-foot ceilings with a larger footprint. It is the biggest in the world, capable of holding a few large-scale ceramic pieces similar to “Untitled” at a time.

“He’s one of the foremost clay artists in the world,” said Severn. “His work is in a hundred museums around the world and he’s exhibited at numerous fine art museums. He also has works in outdoor places like Chicago’s Millennium Park.”

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