When first we saw the Egyptian god Hapy (pronounced “hoppy”), he was flat on his back in the second-floor rotunda at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. His crown and his hands were sheathed in blankets and plastic. Roughly an hour and a half later, he was upright, majestic, large and in charge, daylight washing down him from the skylight above.
Like others who had come to view the installation of the monumental sculpture – nearly 18 feet tall and weighing 9,700 pounds – we stood transfixed and silent except for the click of camera shutters. Hard-hatted, no-nonsense crews from France; the Minneapolis firm Rocket Crane; and Mia raised it with block and tackle and a steel gantry on wheels, then sited it precisely on a platform meant to distribute its weight on the floor.
There were unnerving times when it hung at an angle, swaying slightly. And moments before it touched the ground when men gathered closely around it and we wanted to shout, “Watch your toes!”
Hapy is one of three colossal statues on display for Mia’s new exhibition, “Egypt’s Sunken Cities,” which opens Nov. 4 for a six-month run. The other two, a pharaoh and a queen, are in the main lobby. All had been submerged in the Mediterranean Sea for more than 1,000 years when French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio found them in 2000 while exploring Aboukir Bay near the city of Alexandria.
After the installation, we spoke with Michael Lapthorn, Mia’s exhibition designer.
MinnPost: How long have you been working on this exhibition?
Michael Lapthorn: About two years. [For Hapy], we needed to review a lot of things. We needed to see whether it would fit. We needed an engineer review to find out what the floors would take. We needed to calculate the weight that would be borne by this floor, and the minimum base we would need to distribute that weight. Plus we needed to know how the geometry would work out, where the pick point would end up exactly. [The pick point is where the rigging is attached for lifting.] We had to calculate – when he goes up, would he travel too far back and hit the railing [around the opening in the third floor above]?
MP: Did he arrive in several parts?
ML: He’s in two parts. A foot part and the rest, all bolted together. We had to crane them in through the front door. We had to take the doors off to have room to move them in. We moved them into the galleries, and they’ve been there ever since. We rolled them back along the floor. That’s how they’ll go out again, too.
MP: What was the most challenging part of putting this together?
ML: Trusting the math.
MP: Who did the math?
ML: We all did a little bit of math, but our engineers do the real math. They’re the ones who said it was OK and gave us the thumbs-up to do it.
MP: Was there ever a moment of doubt?
ML: I was worried that his crown was going to nick the inside rim there [pointing up at the ceiling]. When I worked it out on the computer – I made a full-scale model and worked it out – it depended on how high off the ground he needed to be in order to do everything we needed to do. The fact that he’s down as low as he is – he’s much lower than the other statues [in the lobby] – was necessitated by the size of the room. And he would look kind of weird if he were up higher. His head would be stuck in a collar.
MP: Did you put him together here?
ML: Yeah, right here. There’s a cool little trolley system. We laid him horizontally on a railway car. The foot part was fixed and raised up to be equal. They rolled the parts together, bolted them down and torqued the nuts extremely tightly. And now he’s distributed over 100 square feet.
MP: He looks magnificent.
ML: He looks perfect in here. I didn’t think he would look as good, but he seems to be perfectly at home. And I wish we could keep him, but we’ll have to give him back. Our “Doryphorus” is a little jealous. He’s just around the corner, holding court in his own gallery.
Along with the three huge statues, “Egypt’s Sunken Cities” includes more than 250 works of art discovered by Goddio’s team, along with artifacts from museums in Cairo and Alexandria. The exhibition opens Nov. 4. Tickets are on sale now ($20/$16/$14).
Now through Sunday at the Playwrights’ Center: PlayLabs New Play Festival. This annual series started Monday, but you still have Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday to catch staged readings of new plays in an intimate setting, for free. There’s a PlayLabs Party on Saturday and a Playwriting Fellows Showcase on Sunday. More than 65 percent of PlayLabs plays have gone on to full productions. People come in from around the country to see this festival. Times vary. FMI and registration (because seating is limited).
Tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 23) at the Guthrie: The Twin Cities Moth GrandSLAM: “Growing Pains.” Last week at the renovated Parkway, listening to Adam Gopnik, we were reminded of how great it is to sit in a room with a good storyteller. Tonight you can hear ten, all StorySLAM champions, tell tales about their personal growing pains – something we can all relate to, even if we grew up very differently. This event will decide the Moth’s Twin Cities GrandSLAM Story Champion. Javier Morillo will host. Doors at 6:30 p.m., stories at 7:30. FMI and tickets ($25).
Wednesday at Studio Z: Rimon Artist Salon: “The Trail Forward: Music Making Change.” Dubbed “one of the leading series of Jewish events in the country,” Rimon starts its 12th season with Grammy-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Lisa Gutkin (The Klezmatics, the Guthrie’s “Indecent”) and Rabbi Arielle Lekach-Rosenberg. Gutkin will present a first hearing of her music-theater work-in-progress “The Trail Forward,” about growing up among multilingual, politically radical garment-worker immigrants. Rabbi Lekach-Rosenberg will join Gutkin in conversation about making change through collective action and the power of music to spark it. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12/6).
Thursday at Hopkins Center for the Arts: Pen Pals with Min Jin Lee. Friday morning is sold out, but a limited number of tickets have become available for Thursday night’s talk by Korean American author Min Jin Lee, whose 2017 novel “Pachinko” was a finalist for the National Book Award, appeared on many best-books-of-the-year lists and is the first novel written for an adult English-speaking audience about Japanese-Korean culture. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($40/50).
Sunday at the Ted Mann: Choral Concert: “The Call” with the University Singers and Chamber Singers, Ryland Angel and Nels Cline. What an ambitious and timely project. Co-written by internationally known British countertenor Angel and Wilco guitarist Cline, “The Call” explores community and human cooperation historically and today. Angel and Cline had several collaborators, including poet Michael Dennis Browne. Kathy Saltzman Romey will conduct the premiere. 4 p.m. FMI. Free and open to the public. This event will also be live-streamed.