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Ah, we meet again…

Ever wondered what happens to your favorite exhibition after it closes at the IMA?

Sometimes artwork and objects are dispersed back to the lenders who own them.  Other times, exhibitions travel on to another institution for display.  This was the case with European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century. Remember it? A portion of this IMA-organized exhibition is now on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

High Museum of Art

Often, when the IMA sends an exhibition to another institution, our registrars, curators and/or conservators accompany the artwork to the borrowing institution so that we may oversee the installation.  Associate Registrar Brittany Minton, Conservator Richard McCoy and I were lucky enough to travel to Atlanta to work with the High Museum to make a second showing of European Design a reality.

Traveling an exhibition is always a fun and challenging experience.  You are in an unfamiliar gallery space working with staff you’ve just met.  You have a set amount of time to get a show completely installed before you head for home.  In this case, it meant moving crates, unpacking over 250 objects, inspecting them individually to ensure they traveled safely, and installing them in their exhibition locations…..all within two weeks.

Here’s a quick overview of exhibition installation:

1. Unpacking

    Euro Design travel crate

    Brittany and High Chief Preparator Cayse discuss unpacking Tord Boontje’s Night Blossom from its crate

    Each crate is carefully unpacked.  Traveling artwork requires specialized packing which helps each object withstand the stress of travel.  Each container is designed specifically for the object that it holds.  Many thanks go out to IMA’s amazing packing and crating team: Rob Waddle, John Ross, Jesse Speight, and Jim Bayse.  I may be partial, but I think they create some of the most thoughtful art packing.

    For example, here’s how Philipe Starck’s Bedside Gun was packed:

    2. Condition Reporting

      After an object is unpacked, its current condition is thoroughly checked against a report of its condition prior to travel.  This means spending quality time with every single object in the exhibition – be they spoons or sofas – and taking note of every nick, spot, scrape, smudge or accretion.  You have to keep an observant eye on your collection to ensure that it is not changing due to stress during travel.

      3. Installation

        High Designer Jim and Preparators Justin and Cayse installing Mathias Bengtsson’s 03 Slice

        Often, installing an object can simply mean placing it onto its pedestal or platform.  However, some of the objects in Euro Design require special attention.  For example, Tejo Remy’s Milk Bottle needs a specific mount in the ceiling and special attention from the High’s electrician.

        Installing Milk Bottle with High carpenter Gene and electrician Jimmy

        4. Final placement

          Though much preparation is done by both institutions ahead of time, one must always expect the unexpected.  Often, an artwork won’t really reveal itself to you until you are standing in front of it.  One might be surprised by how big an object is in person or by how its color interacts with the objects around it.  Designers and curators may find it necessary to move an object a few inches to the right for better viewing or exchange it with another item that will ensure that visitors have a more comprehensive exhibition experience.

          Discussing placement of Mathias Bengtsson’s C8 Spun Carbon with High Curator Ron Labaco (in green)

          Many thanks to the High staff:  Jimmy Bryce, Cayse “Mash Three” Cheatham, Jody Cohen, Gene Clifton, Ed Hill, Brian Kelly, Steve Keys, Ron Labaco, Justin McNeight, Berry Perkins, Caroline Prinzivalli, Tommy Sapp, Amy Simon, Nicole Smith, and Jim Waters – for showing us the meaning of Southern hospitality.

          Thanks y’all!

          Euro Design will be at the High from June 5, 2010 to August 29, 2010.  While you’re there, I highly recommend checking out The Allure of the Automobile exhibition.  Just remember, the ‘61 Aston Martin is mine.

          After the High, Euro Design travels to the Milwaukee Art Museum where it will be shown from October 6, 2010 to January 9, 2011.  See you in Wisconsin!

          Filed under: Exhibitions, Travel

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