Chicago visitors may notice something a bit different at the city’s Art Institute, with the iconic lions that normally guard the entrance to the building currently gone from their posts.
The lions didn’t magically come to life and disappear however. The museum says that they are currently being given a deep cleaning for the first time in decades, and they were removed by cranes and placed onto flatbed trucks for the short trip over to Forest Park on Monday.
“Like any artwork in the collection, our beloved bronze lions require expert care and conservation to preserve them for future generations,” the museum said in a statement.
Officials say the lions are expected to return to their posts by late July.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the lions will be “high-pressure steamed” and will be given hot wax treatments. They will also be checked for corrosion and other damage during the cleaning process.
The lions have been fixtures at the Art Institute since 1894, when they were designed and sculpted by renowned artist Edward Kemeys. The building, originally used for lectures and other events as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, became the home of the Art Institute at the conclusion of the fair.
Officials told the Chicago Tribune that the statues will still be green when they return, but the cleaning will also unveil deeper levels of color to the iconic cats.
“They have a very dry look right now,” Field Museum objects conservator Rachel Sabino said. “The green will still be there, but it’ll look richer and possibly darker, just more lustrous.”