Tony Smith's She Who Must Be Obeyed Sculpture

Frances Perkins Building, Washington, DC

She Who Must Be Obeyed was fabricated in 1975, and unveiled in 1976. The angled rectangular form is constructed of steel and measures thirty feet high and twenty-four feet wide. The stark geometry is enlivened by its odd angles and monochromatic light blue color. Installed in a small courtyard near the concrete and glass Frances Perkins Building, the sculpture introduced a whimsical note into an otherwise severe site.

The sculpture was beginning to show deterioration caused by entrapped water in the hollow interior. The water, entering from leaks and collecting through condensation, resulted in a loss of the coating surface and the corrosion of the ferrous substrate on both the interior and exterior of the sculpture. Failure of the paint and corrosion were noted at the bottom of the sculpture.

We were engaged to inspect the sculpture and develop means to stabilize it pending its relocation. Conservators supervised the erection of specialized scaffolding on the south side of the monument to allow for access to both the exterior and interior of the sculpture. Once existing conditions were documented, standing water was removed, and a corrosion inhibitor was applied. The existing hatch was remounted on a new frame that allowed for ventilation of the interior without allowing water entry. Drainage slots were installed at the base of sculpture.