Archive for the 'Permanent Collection' Category

Going Back to School: The College of Charleston at the Gibbes

This Fall, the Gibbes Museum was the host site for the College of Charleston class for Art History/Studio Art (340/335), on Wednesdays from 1:15 to 4:00. Gibbes Fellows and Museum Educators were offered the opportunity to audit the class alongside the college students. I was excited to take advantage of the access to professors Marion Mazzone and John Hull, but knew that “going back to school” would present me with multiple challenges. I felt prepared for the art history content, however the in-gallery drawing assignments were very intimidating. Having never participated in a studio art class, I found the sketching of art works in the museum difficult at first. However, I persevered, and with the help of Professor Hull, I discovered I could actually draw. Through this experience, I developed a new appreciation for composition and all the elements that contribute to a finished work of art.

The Source, 1914, by Edward Middleton Manigault

As a class, we were able to view many art objects from the museums archives, as well as those on display in the galleries. The art-historical insight that Professor Mazzone shared about often unseen works of art in the museum’s collection was extremely enlightening and useful to me as a museum educator. I began to relate to works of art that I had previously passed by in my tours. Of particular interest was The Source, by Edward Middleton Manigault, located in the main hallway on the first floor. I had previously avoided the dark and foreboding scene, but with Professor Mazzone’s help I came to appreciate the artist’s use of color—specifically, the blending of various shade of blues and greens throughout the painting. Manigault’s choice of subject matter reflects back to the classical period of art and the influences of Greek mythology. I realized how lucky we are to have this artist’s work at the Gibbes, because his works are relatively few and highly esteemed.

I am already looking forward to auditing another College of Charleston art class in the future, perhaps to test some of my new found skills.

Annette Wanick, Gibbes museum educator and guest blogger

Learn about other continuing education classes at the Gibbes Museum on our website calendar.

Artist Spotlight: Corrie McCallum (American, 1914–2009)

Our current exhibition, Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art, features over 30 groundbreaking women artists, each with their own compelling story and artistic vision. Included among this group is Charleston’s own Corrie McCallum. Throughout her long and productive career, McCallum was a fixture in the Charleston art community. As a result, the Gibbes collection includes many of her works, a selection of which are featured above.

McCallum was born in Sumter, South Carolina in 1914. She attended the University of South Carolina and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Following an extended period of study in Mexico with her husband, fellow artist William Halsey (American, 1915–1999), McCallum and her family settled in Charleston in 1942. Though she chose to live in Charleston, McCallum stayed current with the New York art scene. She followed the development of Abstract Expressionism and incorporated the style into her work, as demonstrated by paintings such as View of Toledo and Boats of Nazare that feature gestural brushwork and reduction of forms.

Under the guidance of Corrie McCallum, the Gibbes created and conducted the first comprehensive art appreciation program for Charleston County public school students.

Under the guidance of Corrie McCallum, the Gibbes created and conducted the first comprehensive art appreciation program for Charleston County public school students.

In addition to her vast body of work, McCallum made significant contributions to the Charleston art community as an educator. She held education positions at several institutions, including the Telfair Museum of Art, Gibbes Museum of Art, College of Charleston, and Newberry College, and throughout her life remained an outspoken advocate for the visual arts.

McCallum’s painting View of Toledo will remain on view in Breaking Down Barriers through January 8, 2012—don’t miss this great exhibition! Have you already seen Breaking Down Barriers? Leave a comment here to share your experience with us.

Pam Wall, curator of exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Designing the New Galleries

We have made great progress on plans for the Gibbes renovations since my earlier post in October. The first phase of the gallery designs and plans were approved and the drawings completed. This trip, curatorial staff members Angela Mack, Sara Arnold, Pam Wall, and I had a great time creating the look and feel of the newly expanded second floor galleries. As we worked together, I realized that we had captured an additional 10,000 square feet of gallery space as a result of the transformation of the Main Gallery, the extension of the third floor at the back of the building, and the conversion of the current store rooms and office space located in the 1970s addition that surrounds the original Beaux Arts building.

Unidentified sitter, ca. 1755, Mary Roberts

During my November visit, we started to delve into the museum’s incredible collection of miniature paintings in order to tell the story of this medium in the South. I was not really surprised when Angela told me that the collection is the third largest in America—of course that would be the case with all the romance and charm of Charleston! The Miniatures and Cabinettes Gallery will showcase a grand history of Charleston’s residents through the development of American miniature portrait painting. The works on view will highlight the premiere artists of the period and the evolution of the genre. The gallery will include other major prints, drawings, and images created by many of the artists who worked in Charleston and helped it flourish as an American center of portrait miniatures. Visitors will move from the cases displaying hand-painted likenesses into galleries exhibiting the development of the Daguerreotype and early photographs in the museum’s extensive photograph collection. The scale of these tiny works of art will not translate well in an architectural drawing, so I think this space will be the first 3-D model we will build.

At my suggestion, the museum invited lighting designer Anita Jorgensen—who worked with me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is now consulting all over the country—to participate in the project. She reviewed the lighting proposals for the galleries, the museum’s exterior, and the entire first floor including the new café, the shop, and the new lecture and events spaces. We plan to install all new track and energy-efficient light fixtures throughout the building and create some very dramatic displays.

Greg Jenkins and Anita Jorgensen examine the dome structure from above the Rotunda Gallery.

Greg Jenkins and Anita Jorgensen examine the dome structure from above the Rotunda Gallery.

On the second floor, we will reopen the original skylights above the Main Gallery with state of the art light-diffusing glass and a new illumination system. The Tiffany-style dome in the Rotunda Gallery is in extremely good condition and it will get a serious cleaning. Anita and I followed operations manager Greg Jenkins up to the skylights and the stained-glass dome “installation room” above the Rotunda. We reviewed the dome’s existing lighting system and concluded that the best treatment will be to simply bounce dimmable fluorescent lighting down toward the dome to provide an even wash of light. We will also work on a new approach to illuminating the oculus, or center, of the dome and its decorative grillwork.

The museum’s dome is the only Beaux Arts example in Charleston, so highlighting the exterior of the building is key as well. Anita and I mustered the courage to go up on the roof again to review the potential exterior lighting options. We have a lot of work to do in order to achieve our plan. This truly makes me appreciate the monumental effort that Greg makes on a daily basis to keep the building in great shape.

Lighting designer Anita Jorgensen on the roof of the Gibbes Museum.

On a beautiful fall day, lighting designer Anita Jorgensen enjoyed the wonderful warm breeze and the view of the Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River as she examined the roof of the Gibbes Museum.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are rehabbing the space from top to bottom, so imagine our delight when we saw the amount of original tile flooring that has survived under the 1970s carpeting. It appears that the first floor tiling still remains under the central hallway carpeting so it will be cleaned and restored. But the area that really surprised everyone is the spectacularly patterned tile flooring in the second floor Rotunda Gallery. I snapped several photos to show the floor in it current condition—it looks very tired now but we are hopeful that it can be restored to its original grandeur. It appears that the center area of the floor has a very large pattern that may be a floral design. It is large enough that its diameter will most likely match the Tiffany-style dome above.

A detail of the tile design in the flooring original to the Beaux-Arts building.

A detail of the tile design in the flooring original to the Beaux Arts building.

I am excited for the final results when the Rotunda floor is uncovered, the walnut architectural woodwork is stripped of years of paint and refinished, and the dome is cleaned and glows with new lighting elements. The space will be brought back to life again and it will unquestionably become a Charleston destination place. I cannot wait!

Jeff Daly, museum designer and guest blogger

Artist Spotlight: Margaret Bourke-White

Piston Rods, ca. 1927, by Margaret Bourke-White

Since Margaret Bourke-White’s iconic images will be featured in both of the Gibbes’ upcoming exhibitions—Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art and Camera Works: Masters in Photography—we thought her groundbreaking career worthy of the spotlight!

Margaret Bourke-White studied photography at Columbia University under renowned photographer Clarence H. White. She opened her own studio in Cleveland in the 1920s and found early artistic success creating images in factories and other industrial environments. She was conscious of modernist compositional techniques, and had a unique ability to find beauty in the raw materials associated with machinery—as is exemplified in her 1927 image, Piston Rods. However, from the outset of her career, Bourke-White was interested in using photography to examine social issues and she quickly broke into the male-dominated field of photojournalism.

She was a woman of many firsts. In 1929, Bourke-White was hired as the first staff photographer for Fortune magazine. She was also one of the first of four photojournalist hired by Life magazine and one of her photographs appeared on the magazine’s first cover in 1936. Bourke-White traveled throughout the world and was the first-ever Western photographer allowed in the Soviet Union. She photographed some of the twentieth century’s most notable moments, including the liberation of German concentration camps in 1945, and the release of Mahatma Gandhi from prison in 1946.

Two Old Women, 1937, By Margaret Bourke-White

Bourke-White traveled through the American south in the 1930s. Like many of the famed photographers of the era—such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Peter Sekaer—she worked to capture the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Many of her images from this experience were included in the publication, You Have Seen Their Faces, a collaborative project with her future husband, author Erskine Caldwell.

Sara Arnold, curator of collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Breaking Down Barrier: 300 Years of Women in Art and Camera Works: Masters in Photography both open on October 28, 2011

Looking to the Past to Plan for the Future

Gibbes Museum of Art, facade

Architectural rendering of James Gibbes Art Gallery, by Frank P. Milburn, ca. 1903

After 28 years as a designer at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, I decided to start my own museum design business. My first client was the Annual Winter Antiques Show in New York. Last year we had the very successful exhibit, Grandeur Preserved, organized by the Historic Charleston Foundation. The exhibit borrowed from most of the major Charleston museums and collections but especially from the Gibbes Museum of Art. Following the success of that event, I was contacted by museum executive director Angela Mack to discuss the renovation of the Gibbes. I was thrilled to be asked and couldn’t wait to find out more.

When I arrived in Charleston in July, Angela said that she wanted me to be the consultant for the entire museum project, not just the gallery installation designs. This was exactly the project I wanted to be involved with after years of helping renovate and re-think the Met. I fly down every month from New York for a week of meetings with the entire museum staff as well the engineers, architects, and project managers for the renovation. I have now fallen in love with the city of Charleston and its art museum.

Gibbes Museum of Art: First Floor

Current first floor layout for the Gibbes Museum.

As many people know, the Gibbes is currently laid out with the earliest works of art from the collection displayed in the low ceilinged, first floor galleries. The Modern and Contemporary art is located at the back (west end) of the museum and continues on the second and third floor back galleries as well. The Main and the Rotunda Galleries on the second floor are both for temporary special exhibitions. All of that is changing now.

Gibbes Museum of Art: Second Floor

Current second floor layout for the Gibbes Museum.

We are taking inspiration from the past to design the new galleries, while looking to the future to redefine the focus for all of the museum spaces. The Museum Store will stay in the front of the building but will move across the hall on the museum’s first floor, and the new Gibbes café will be situated where the shop used to be. All of the first and second floor windows will be reopened connecting the interior spaces of the museum with the energy of Meeting Street. Dedicated classroom spaces, artist studios, and a lecture hall will become a hub of activity for the creative community. The Gibbes is going to be alive, day and night, with views into the building that will make everyone stop to contemplate their next visit. My favorite part of all of this planning is that the entire first floor will be devoted to the public – free of charge. Visitors will be able to walk through the building from the front entrance down the classroom corridor to the atrium rear-entryway and new garden courtyard.

Longitudinal Cross-section of the new Gibbes Museum

Architectural rendering of a longitudinal cross section of the newly designed museum.

This first floor change allows a transformation of the upper floors of the building. All of the artwork is moving upstairs to the second and third floors where approximately 2000 additional square feet of gallery space will permit more of the permanent collection to be shown. I am currently working on the layouts for the entire second floor with curators Sara Arnold and Pam Wall, and with Angela Mack, of course. We have determined that the Main Gallery will house the early works in the Gibbes collection featuring all of the beauties and famous characters that have been the story of Charleston for hundreds of years. The installation will flow into the north group of galleries (currently office space) and around to the back galleries, with a view to the newly designed sculpture garden and courtyard at the west end. The second floor installation will culminate with a new special gallery on the south side to display one of the largest and finest miniature paintings collections in the country. Finally, two new galleries on the third floor will be dedicated to special exhibitions; and a new collection storage room with a viewing area will allow visitors to see the staff at work.

We are still working on my favorite part of museum design as we continue to discuss the art installations. I get to go through the collection storage with Zinnia Willits, director of collections administration, and talk about the art. How can that not be fun?! I love discovering the surprises that have not been on view due to space limitations but can now be incorporated into the new displays. The other great adventure has been working with Greg Jenkins, operations director, on all the other behind-the-scenes spaces of the museum. On my last trip, Greg was brave enough to take me up above the skylights in the attic over the Rotunda and the Main Galleries. All of the original skylights above the second and third floor will be reopened and updated to illuminate the Main and the Rotunda galleries with filtered, safe daylight. No more dark rainy days at the Gibbes! After that, we went up onto the roof so I could see the exterior of the Rotunda dome to consider how to light it. Our goal is for all of Charleston to see the museum’s location and to be able to view the landmark structure at night from the air.

All of this description is basically to say that the museum is being reborn. The first floor will become a dynamic part of downtown Charleston and one of the liveliest places in the city. The art classrooms will come back to life again the way they were in the 1920’s and 30’s. The creative spirit of the original 1905 Gibbes Museum and the Carolina Art Association will become the lifeblood of the street level while the upstairs will return to the grand spaces that James Shoolbred Gibbes intended when he funded the construction of the building in 1905. Even the front entrance of the museum will be getting a facelift with a cleaning and new lighting to show off the proud façade. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to define the plans for this exciting museum renovation!


—Jeff Daly, museum designer and guest blogger

Artist Spotlight: Sam Doyle (American, 1906–1985)

The Gibbes has an amazing collection of 10,000 objects. With so many objects and only so much gallery space, at any given time, the vast majority of our collection remains safely tucked away in storage. But that doesn’t mean we can’t share it online! This post is one in what will be a series of artist spotlights, highlighting a variety of treasures from the Gibbes collection.

In honor of this summer’s focus on vernacular art (see my last post from July), I have chosen to spotlight South Carolina artist Sam Doyle (1906–1985). Doyle was an African-American vernacular artist from St. Helena Island, near Beaufort, and he found artistic inspiration within his community. Settled by the descendants of African American slaves after the Civil War, the residents of St. Helena Island remained largely secluded from the mainland through the mid-twentieth century. This isolation allowed residents to preserve many of the folk traditions rooted in their African heritage. Elements of Gullah culture, oral histories of Southern slavery, and Christian iconography greatly influence Doyle’s work. He is best known for his portraits which most frequently portray significant figures living on St. Helena Island. Using found objects, such as sheets of tin roofing or wood paneling as his canvas, Doyle created full-body portraits that often include text describing the subject’s importance to local culture. The Gibbes owns four paintings by Doyle, three of which you can see above.

And if you like Sam Doyle’s work, you should also check out our current exhibition in the Main Gallery, The Creative Spirit: Vernacular Art from the Gadsden Arts Center. It features work by artists who, like Doyle, are self-taught and live in the rural south. The exhibition closes on October 16, so you have a few more weeks to get here. Godzilla will be waiting!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Outgoing Loans: Collaboration, Consideration, Negotiation

Charleston Runner, by Mary Edna Fraser

Many museums organize the artwork in their galleries according to “permanent collection” and “special exhibition” themes. The permanent collection galleries display works of art that belong to the museum, while special exhibitions often include art on loan from another institution or private collectors. The Gibbes Museum regularly receives requests from museums across the country to borrow artwork for special exhibitions. Museums constantly lend works back and forth and are involved in an on-going cooperative dialogue about sharing art to enhance an exhibition or highlight a period of regional, national, or global art history. While the outgoing loan process follows a standard protocol, each instance is full of negotiation and nuance.

Most loan requests begin with a conversation between two curators to discuss an exhibition being organized and to inquire about borrowing works. The borrowing curator will provide exhibition details including themes, a check list of confirmed works, exhibition dates, information about scholarly research and publication initiatives, and any possibility of the exhibition traveling to multiple venues. Informal correspondence between curators is followed by a letter from the borrower to the Gibbes Executive Director, formally requesting the loan. In order to process a request, the Gibbes Museum asks that loan requests are submitted no later than three months before the date the artwork is needed—larger museums often require six months to one year lead time! Last minute requests are discouraged due to the amount of preparatory work required of collections and curatorial staff.

Zinnia Willits and Sara Arnold assess the condition of an outgoing loan object.

Zinnia Willits and Sara Arnold assess the condition of an outgoing loan object.

Once the formal application has been received, a series of internal questions must be addressed. Our collections and curatorial staff must determine if the object is needed for upcoming exhibitions at the Gibbes, if its condition is stable enough for travel, and if the borrowing institution’s facility meets standard requirements of security and climate control as defined by the American Association of Museums. These are just a few items on the lengthy checklist we use when considering outgoing loans. If the request passes the staff vetting process, it is brought before the Gibbes Museum Collections Committee for final approval.

The Collections Committee, a sub-Committee of the Carolina Art Association Board of Directors, meets quarterly with the Executive Director, Curator of Collections, and Director of Collections Administration to monitor the direction of the permanent collection and must review all outgoing loan requests. If the loan is approved by the Collections Committee, the borrowing institution is given the good news and work continues with the often complicated details of conservation, packing, and shipping. Each museum has specific requirements that must be accepted by the borrower for the loan to move forward. For example, the Gibbes maintains a document that outlines standard requirements for all outgoing loans. This document is provided to the borrowing museum as soon as a request is received and covers all matters of shipping, couriers, photography, insurance, and installation. The costs to conserve, pack, and ship outgoing loans can be enormous and is outlined in the agreement. Negotiation regarding lender requirements can be challenging for both parties, but in the end, safety and integrity of artwork always prevails.

Mama, You Know I Never Paid Matisse No Never Mind, by Sigmund Abeles

Currently the Gibbes has works on loan to several regional institutions. The work, Mama You Know I Never Paid Matisse No Never Mind, 2000, by Sigmund Abeles (American, b. 1934) can be found at the Columbia Museum of Art in the exhibition It Figures: The Work of Sigmund Abeles, until October 23, 2011.

The Exchange, by Edward Rice

Slightly farther west you will find two works by Edward Rice (American, b. 1953), The Exchange, 2011 and 502 Lucerne, 1983–1986, at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia. These paintings are prominently featured in the exhibition, Preservation of Place: the Art of Edward Rice, on view through November 20, 2011. Travel north a few hours to see the beautiful work titled Charleston Runner, 1996, by local artist Mary Edna Fraser (American, b. 1952). This batik is on view at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences through November 6, 2011, in the compelling exhibition Our Expanding Oceans, a study of the science behind sea level rise.

502 Lucerne Street, 1983–1986, by Edward Rice

The outgoing loan process for these exhibitions began back in 2010! As I write this, there are several new outgoing loan requests under consideration. Stay tuned to find out where works from the Gibbes collection might travel next.

Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration, Gibbes Museum of Art

An Artist Revealed


Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Colonial Williamsburg to oversee the installation of the Gibbes watercolor Tranquil Hill which is on loan to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum for the next two years. This painting depicts an early nineteenth-century plantation landscape and has been in the Gibbes collection since 1972. Though the general location of the scene is clearly inscribed at the bottom of the painting, “Tranquil-Hill The Seat of Ann Waring, Near Dorchester,” the artist who painted it remains a mystery…or does it?

Recent research has linked our Tranquil Hill to the famous painting known as The Old Plantation, an image that has long been considered the best known depiction of early American slave life and culture in existence. The Old Plantation has perplexed art historians for generations. Who painted it, when was it made, where are the subjects, and what are they doing, were all unanswered questions. But over the last decade, Dr. Susan Shames, decorative arts librarian at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, has worked diligently to unravel these unsolved mysteries. In her recent book The Old Plantation: The Artist Revealed, Shames brings to light the evidence that led her to solve one of the great art mysteries of modern day.

Shames’ intensive research has definitively identified the artist of The Old Plantation as John Rose (1752/53-1820), a South Carolina planter, and suggests that the image was likely painted on his plantation near Beaufort around 1785–1790. The fascinating detective work that led Shames to this conclusion and much more about the painting is successfully presented in her book as well as in the recently opened exhibition. In both, Shames also examines the Gibbes’ mysterious painting Tranquil Hill and posits that it too may be a work by the hand of John Rose.

The evidence is still inconclusive on this last matter, as the two images are stylistically quite different, but Shames’ research uncovered several important facts about Tranquil Hill that connect it to John Rose. Rose and his family moved from Beaufort to Dorchester in 1795. There, he and Ann Ball Waring attended the same small church, lived in close proximity, and clearly traveled in the same social circles. The watermark on the paper suggests that the painting was likely made after 1805 during the time Rose lived in Dorchester. This information supports Shames’ theory that Rose, who painted as a hobby, made it as a gift for his friend and neighbor Ann Waring. This new hypothesis certainly inspires further investigation into this painting.

If you like a good art detective story, check out the The Old Plantation: The Artist Revealed by Susan Shames. Tranquil Hill will be on view with The Old Plantation and one other work by John Rose at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum through 2012.

Sara Arnold, curator of collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Outside Perspectives: Visiting Artists in Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina has long been a tourist destination for those seeking warm weather, picturesque landscape, and the charm of a historic city. Artists are no exception to the rule, and a number of well-known names have visited the city and translated their experiences into works of art. Included among this group are such twentieth-century masters as Edward Hopper, Childe Hassam, George Biddle, and the photographer Walker Evans. Between the years of 1910 to 1945 in particular, Charleston flourished as a Mecca for artists, a period described today as the Charleston Renaissance.

The Charleston Renaissance was largely the result of a small community of resident artists who discovered in Charleston’s timeworn alleyways and weathered facades a visual beauty that spoke of an extraordinary architectural and cultural past. Centered on the work of Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Anna Heyward Taylor, and Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, this time period engendered civic pride among Charlestonians and brought national attention to the rich cultural and architectural heritage of the city.

In many cases, the extent of interaction between the resident and visiting artists in Charleston during this time period is unclear. However, artists from each group depicted similar subject matter, and a sharing of subject matter suggests a sharing of ideas. Like the local artists, many of the artists who made shorter stays were captivated with the architecture of Charleston. Childe Hassam, Colin Campell Cooper, and Walker Evans all created work featuring the city’s structures. Edward Hopper focused on atmospheric impressions of the architecture and surrounding landscape. Artists such as Anthony Thieme captured the surrounding Lowcountry marshlands, while New York artists George Biddle and Palmer Schoppe turned their attention to the African-American inhabitants of the city. These artists are part of a long tradition of cultural exchange in Charleston, a tradition that remains very much alive today.

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art, and Pamela Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Excerpted from Antiques & Fine Art, Volume X, Issue 6. To read the full article, please visit AFANews.com.

Mrs. Gilmor goes to New York

After clearing a conservation assesment, Mrs. Gilmor is ready to be put into her crate.

How do you prepare for upcoming travel? Perhaps you check the weather for your destination and reconfirm transit arrangements. You might make sure luggage is in suitable condition and your accommodations are up to par. Maybe you review your travel wardrobe or purchase new travel clothing. Interestingly, preparing artwork to travel is not all that different. As Director of Collections Administration, I think a lot about how artwork is going to travel out of the museum, out of the state, or even out of the country. One of my responsibilities is to act as travel agent and personal assistant to artwork in the Gibbes collection. I make sure each piece is in good physical condition to travel; clear itineraries with Gibbes curators who may need particular works for upcoming exhibitions; make sure each piece has a travel container; and oversee all transit arrangements.

The outgoing loan of Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. (Sarah Reeve Ladson) by Thomas Sully (American, 1783–1872) is a good example of this process. As you have probably heard (or seen in the January issue of Charleston Magazine), this lovely painting—along with five other pieces from our collection—is preparing for a whirlwind trip to New York City where she will be featured in the loan exhibition at the Winter Antiques Show. The exhibition, Grandeur Preserved: Masterworks Presented by Historic Charleston Foundation, will highlight more than fifty objects selected from Charleston’s leading cultural institutions as well as private collections. Mrs. Gilmor will be a star in this show, and I (the personal assistant and travel agent) have been preparing her trip for many months.

Let me share some details of Mrs. Gilmor’s travel itinerary and preparations. Historic Charleston Foundation invited Mrs. Gilmor to participate in this exhibition over a year ago. Thankfully that was plenty of time to clear her social schedule in terms of upcoming exhibitions at the Gibbes. In addition to the “invitation,” or outgoing loan request, we received a facility report for the exhibition destination which contains important details about the loan venue’s security, lighting, and climate control, as well as information about how our painting would be installed and who would install it. These documents had to be approved by the Collections Committee and Board of Directors of the Gibbes Museum of Art. We also approved the details of her travel arrangements. Thomas Sully painted Mrs. Gilmor in 1823. She is 188 years old and prefers to travel in style. Fortunately, she already owns a custom crate which keeps her safe and comfortable during transit. Mrs. Gilmor traveled to China in this crate several years ago and enjoyed the security it provided.

A view of the interior and exterior crates used to protect Mrs. Gilmor in transit.

Another part of the outgoing loan process is scheduling a thorough conservation assessment. Think of this as the physical check-up sometimes needed prior to strenuous travel. Before Mrs. Gilmor was approved for loan, I reviewed her condition with an art conservator to make sure that the paint surface was stable and her frame was solid with all gilding intact. Any needed repairs must be scheduled well in advance of the actual travel dates—timing is everything when it comes to outgoing loan preparation. Fortunately, Mrs. Gilmor is in wonderful condition. She had some work done (shhhh) before the afore-mentioned trip to China and is in great shape to travel to New York City.

The painting is secured in an interior box before being set into the travel crate.

While Mrs. Gilmor required no grooming for this particular trip, I did prepare a detailed condition report. Condition reports contain images and a complete description of any flaws or vulnerable areas that exist on a work before it is released for travel. Condition reports are very important and must be reviewed when loans reach their destinations. While only the most qualified museum professionals handle and transport loans, it’s always good to have written documentation of a painting’s pre-loan condition… just in case.

Preparator Greg Jenkins inserts foam blocks to secure the interior case containing the painting.

Now here we are, just days away from Mrs. Gilmor’s trip to New York City. I have been in touch with the shippers and confirmed her transit itinerary. Her accommodations at the Park Avenue Armory are ready and I am in possession of the very detailed installation plan. She is secure in her crate and ready to go. I will be in New York to greet her upon arrival and make sure she is comfortable in her temporary surroundings. As a personal assistant to artwork, sometimes when you request an outgoing loan from the Gibbes… you get me too!

See you in New York!

Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration, Gibbes Museum of Art

Other works of art traveling to New York City from the Gibbes Museum’s collection include:

View of Mulberry, House and Street, ca. 1805, by Thomas Coram (American, 1756 – 1811). Oil on paper; 4 1/16 x 6 11/16 inches. Museum Purchase (1968.018.0001)

Eliza Izard (Mrs. Thomas Pinckney, Jr.), 1801, by Edward Greene Malbone (American, 1777 – 1872). Watercolor on ivory; 2 7/8 x 2 3/8 inches. Museum Purchase (1939.004.0004)

Colonel Thomas Pinckney, Jr., 1801, by Edward Greene Malbone (American, 1777 – 1872). Watercolor on ivory; 3 x 2 3/8 inches. Museum Purchase (1939.004.0003)

Mrs. Arthur Middleton (Alicia Hopton Russell Middleton), 1836, by Andrew Robertson (Scottish, 1777 – 1845). Watercolor on ivory; 3 5/8 x 2 3/4 inches. Gift of Alicia Hopton Middleton (1937.005.0002)

Charlotte Helen Middleton and her enslaved nurse, Lydia, 1852, by George Smith Cook (American, 1819 – 1902). Ambrotype. Gift of Alicia Hopton Middleton (1937.005.0010)

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