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AUSTIN, TX- What does a company do with 52 sculptures weighing a combined 9,000 tons? If the company is Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors and the art in question was created by artist George Sugarman, the answer is offer it to office buildings and art museums throughout Austin and Houston.

According to Ross Crowe, vice president with Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors in Austin, the final Sugarman sculpture is in the final phases of installation at the Chase Tower at 221 W. 6th St. Crowe tells GlobeSt.com that the piece’s installation will complete a 1.5-year long effort to find homes for the art.

The original home for the Sugarman sculptures, First National Bank at 332 Minnesota St. in St. Paul, MN had been constructed specifically to deal with the weight of 19,000 tons of pure aluminum, Crowe says. But when the building ran into some vacancy issues and the owners were deleveraging assets, “we agreed to take the art to see if some of our properties could be spruced up,” Crowe remarks. “We have a lot of buildings in our portfolio that definitely could use the curb appeal.”

After the art arrived from the great white north in five 18-wheeler trucks, Grubb & ellis Realty Investors restored the sculptures at an average cost of $50,000 a pop, including installation. But Crowe points out that the art itself is appraised for around a quarter of a million dollars and higher. Locally, the Sugarman pieces ended up at the Austin Museum of Art and on 816 Congress St. Pieces have also been installed throughout the Houston metro area, including Beltway 8 Corporate Center on the northwest side, Waterway Plaza I and II in The Woodlands and 602 Sawyer St., just west of the CBD.

Looking back on the entire process, Crowe says there was more to offering the art than simply making property look better. Goodwill is a huge part of installations such as Sugarman’s. People like attractive things and art, he notes. The public also appreciates owners who share beautiful and interesting pieces with the public.

“One of the lessons we learned from the 1980s is that those landlords who do nothing, or do less than nothing, will usually find themselves behind the eight ball when others are aggressively improving curb appeal,” Crowe comments.

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