Posts Tagged 'Registrar'

Making a List and Checking It Twice—A Day in the Life of a Registrar

UPDATE: Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins has been extended and will now close on April 29, 2018!

The DMA recently installed Yayoi Kusama’s All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016), one of the artist’s immersive Infinity Mirror Rooms. As its name suggests, the room features pumpkin lanterns that are reflected in mirrored panels, creating the illusion that they continue into infinity. The effect is both intimate (a maximum of two guests may enter at a time) and mesmerizing.

Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London, © Yayoi Kusama

A lot of planning takes place behind the scenes before works of art go on view to the public. That is where registrars (like me) come into play! Registrars (also sometimes called Collections Managers) are responsible for both the logistics and physical care of art as well as collection-related documentation.

For most exhibitions or rotations of works of art in the galleries, we’re working with multiple pieces that come together as a group; however, with installation art like Kusama’s, we need to keep track of all the details and components that make up the piece as a whole. For this project, it meant coordinating the safe transportation of the many room components and the 62 pumpkins that go into the space once constructed.

First, we double-checked that everything traveled according to the packing list and carefully examined every single pumpkin to ensure they were ready for installation. These condition reports are like an artwork’s health chart. It’s an important ongoing part of our job because a condition report records the object information (also known as tombstone data), a general description or photo of the artwork (or pumpkin in this case!), and, most importantly, a detailed summary of the overall appearance and condition at a specific point in time.

In the months leading up to install, registrars collaborate with team members in other departments to finalize the gallery layout, installation schedules, wall text (or didactics), and any special opening events. Once the installation begins, the registrar serves as air-traffic control to help make sure the team stays, to the best of our ability, on track according to the installation schedule.

Registrars also take step-by-step notes and pictures to document the process, especially for an installation like Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, which requires very specific construction. Installations can be a little tiring but the end result is so rewarding! You get to see a project come together literally from the ground up and then share it with the community.

The pumpkin-themed mirror room will be on display from October 1, 2017, through February 25, 2018 [UPDATE: the exhibition will now close on April 29, 2018], with DMA Members getting a sneak peek up until the opening (DMA Member tickets are available here). Visit our website for details and to purchase tickets: DMA.org/Kusama.

 

Alicia Chavez is the Collections Assistant at the DMA.

After Midnight: When the artwork is an early riser

Eight months ago, I joined the Dallas Museum of Art as the Director of Collections Management, helping to oversee the care of our art collection—both on and off the walls in our galleries and for our special exhibitions.  As part of that responsibility, I supervise the Museum’s team of preparators and registrars. Preparators are the staff who actually handle the art and are responsible for installing the artwork you see hanging in the galleries. Registrars, among other duties, are in charge of all logistics and coordination of loans coming to the DMA. Members of our excellent team have written about their adventures on Uncrated before (relive some of those stories here, here, here, here, and here!).

Last month we were all focused on the arrival of paintings from around the globe for our newest special exhibition, Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga.

Art travels in specially built crates, and there are particular companies that coordinate the shipping and customs procedures for works of art. The DMA Registrar staff works in close contact with these companies to make sure the works are safe and sound at all times. They know what size crate can fit in the cargo hold of different aircrafts and all possible flight options. We are kind of the travel agent for the artwork! We know that if a crate is higher than 63 inches it means that it will need to fly in a cargo plane.

That was the case for some of the most amazing artwork you will see in Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga, which opens at the DMA on February 8. We had 30 crates of 52 works of art travel from Japan to Dallas accompanied by the staff from the Japan Foundation and couriers from two of the lending institutions, the Mie Prefectural Art Museum, and the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art.
Truck arrival

As there is no need to cater to passengers, cargo flights tend to leave and arrive at not the most convenient times. They are likely to arrive in the middle of the night—or in the middle of the morning, depending on how you look at it!

Truck manovering

The Shiraga and Motonaga works arrived at the DMA on a cold January night. Registrar and Preparator staff, armed with lots of coffee, good attitudes, and heavy coats, were at the DMA to receive the shipment. Our galleries were dark, and so was the night outside. Under the watchful eyes of our Security staff, we worked just as we would during the day, moving quickly and carefully. Preparators unloaded the big truck and moved the crates into our galleries. There they would acclimatize—a museum term for adjust to the current conditions (sort of like getting over jet lag)—for a 24-hour period. Afterward, these beautiful works were uncrated and installed in the presence of their couriers.

Truck at dock

I hope you will visit the DMA soon and enjoy this stunning exhibition!

Isabel Stauffer is the Director of Collections Management at the DMA.

Crating on Uncrated

Be sure to stop by the DMA by Sunday, January 12, for a last look at Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take. which we were excited to co-organize with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and to premiere in Dallas. Starting bright and early on January 13, DMA staff will begin packing the artworks in preparation for shipping the exhibition to Minnesota . These photos showcase the careful packing methods needed for such fragile and unusual materials.

Jim Hodges, Anymore, 2010, handmade paper and cast paper with Beva adhesive, Lillian and Billy Mauer

Jim Hodges, Anymore, 2010, handmade paper and cast paper with Beva adhesive, Lillian and Billy Mauer

Anymore is pinned into place to prevent movement during transit, and then padded with Tyvek-covered bolsters and archival (acid-free) tissue paper. Anymore packing

Jim Hodges, Untitled (bells), 2002, blown glass in 18 parts, Pizzuti Collection

Jim Hodges, Untitled (bells), 2002, blown glass in 18 parts, Pizzuti Collection

Each of the glass bells is wrapped in Tyvek and surrounded with custom-cut foam collars that fit snugly around the piece. Bells packing

Jim Hodges, Untitled, 2011, mirror on canvas, Penny Pritzker and Bryan Traubert

Jim Hodges, Untitled, 2011, mirror on canvas, Penny Pritzker and Bryan Traubert

The black mirror Untitled hung high on the back wall of the Barrel Vault comes apart into five pieces; each is screwed into the back of a travel frame so that it “floats” and nothing touches its
fragile edges.

Black mirror packing

Jim Hodges, Changing Things, 1997, silk, plastic, and wire, Dallas Museum of Art, Mary Margaret Munson Wilcox Fund and gift of Catherine and Will Rose, Howard Rachofsky, Christopher Drew and Alexandra May, and Martin Posner and Robyn Menter-Posner

Jim Hodges, Changing Things, 1997, silk, plastic, and wire, Dallas Museum of Art, Mary Margaret Munson Wilcox Fund and gift of Catherine and Will Rose, Howard Rachofsky, Christopher Drew and Alexandra May, and Martin Posner and Robyn Menter-Posner

Each of the 342 pieces of the DMA’s own Changing Things artwork is pinned into its numbered spot onto a foam tray inside archival blue-board boxes. The numbers correspond to labeled holes on the plastic template that hangs on the wall for installation.

Changing Things packing

Jim Hodges, the dark gate, 2008, wood, steel, electric light, perfume, paint, flooring, Private Collection

Jim Hodges, the dark gate, 2008, wood, steel, electric light, perfume, paint, and flooring, Private Collection

The many custom bolts that attach the sides, ceiling, and floor panels of the dark gate room are neatly inserted in parallel rows inside their crate. Dark Gate packing

Jim Hodges, Untitled (Gate), 1991, steel, aluminum, copper, brass, paint, electric lighting, Collection of the artist

Jim Hodges, Untitled (Gate), 1991, steel, aluminum, copper, brass, paint, and electric lighting, Collection of the artist

Eleven strips of twill are drilled into the foam backing of Untitled (Gate)’s crate to secure the chains for travel; the charms that hang in the center of the web are further protected by a Tyvek-covered foam sheet.

Gate packing

Jim Hodges, on the way between places, 2009, charcoal and saliva on paper, Collection of the artist (No. 8-21)

Jim Hodges, on the way between places, Nos. 8-21, 2009, charcoal and saliva on paper, Collection of the artist

Due to charcoal’s fragile “friable” (the tendency to flake) nature, it is best that the medium travels flat. These 14 pieces in the series from the artist’s collection are each wrapped and ride inside a
foam slot.
On the way between places packing

Jim Hodges, With the Wind, 1997, scarves and thread, Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman NY, Courtesy The FLAG Art Foundation

Jim Hodges, With the Wind, 1997, scarves and thread, Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman NY, Courtesy The FLAG Art Foundation

To minimize the possibility of wrinkles and protect the fibers of the artwork, With the Wind is wrapped in tissue and rolled around a tube. With the Wind packing

Reagan Duplisea is the associate registrar, exhibitions at the DMA.

Uncrating Stickley: A Registrar’s Report

Just before Labor Day I left Dallas for New Jersey to be on-site for the uncrating and installation of the exhibition Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement. Organized by the DMA, this exhibition opens at the Newark Museum of Art next week, and as the DMA’s Registrar, it is part of my job to help in the moving of these works to ensure proper handling.

It's nice to see a museum being promoted at a sporting event. I noticed this sign for the Newark Museum while watching the Newark Bears play the Bridgeport Bluefish.

It’s early September and the ideal weather makes this a great evening to catch a minor league baseball game in Newark. After working all day installing the exhibit at the Newark Museum, this is a nice change of pace. Even the annoyingly loud music that plays every time a batter steps up to the plate can’t ruin the great atmosphere.

Daniel Brophy makes sure he doesn't run me over as he helps David Bonner and Seth Goodwin move a crate into the galleries for unpacking.

It’s proving to be a challenge installing an exhibition at another museum as the opening tour venue–usually the organizing institution opens the show but in this case it premieres in Newark to coincide with the 100th birthday of Stickley’s home, Craftsman Farms, in Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey. But the Newark Museum exhibition team and registrars are working hard to make sure we unpack, condition report (as a registrar, it is also part of my job to carefully document any change in condition or damage that might occur), and install the 100-plus objects before the first opening event on September 14.

One of the specific challenges revolves around the fact that this is the first time I’ve seen the majority of the objects in person. This adds to the amount of packing documentation and condition report notes that must be made before the objects can be finally installed. But we’ve worked out an effective system where Newark Museum registrars Antonia Moser and Amber Germano have been completing many of the condition reports while I update packing notes and direct the art handlers (Seth Goodwin, Daniel Brophy, Diane June, and David Bonner) on the order of crate unpacking. It’s vital to keep the unpacking and condition reporting process moving smoothly with as little down time as possible in order to meet our deadline.

Newark Museum Associate Registrar Antonia Moser performs a condition report on a folding screen in one of the museum galleries.

Daniel Brophy and Seth Goodwin install a folding screen after unpacking it. Gloves are required when handling works of art to protect the surface of objects.

While crates look like simple wooden boxes on the outside, their interiors can be filled with numerous braces and other packing features to ensure the safety of the artwork while being transported. It's vital to follow any instructions provided by the various craters, who often write directions and registration marks directly on the crate and crate components for easy visibility.

And while every exhibition installation has its fair share of bumps in the road and unique challenges, it’s what makes my job as a registrar so appealing. There’s not much that beats opening crate after crate of fine art and making sure it’s installed safely for museum visitors to enjoy. And as a bonus, I’ve discovered that Stickley’s ash furniture pieces are quite beautiful. Be sure to check them out if you’re in Newark, Dallas, or San Diego during the exhibition dates in those cities.

Oh, and here’s a double bonus: the home team Newark Bears have erased a 4-1 deficit and now lead the Bridgeport Bluefish 7-5 in the bottom of the fourth inning. Go Bears!

Brent Mitchell is the Registrar for Loans and Exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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