Archive for December, 2009

Behind-the-Scenes at the Gibbes

Hi there. It’s me again, Zinnia Willits, the Collections Manager at the Gibbes. In my previous post I shared an insider’s look at transporting artwork in crates and soft-pack materials.  However, sometimes it is impossible to pack artwork in a crate or slip case. Here is an example:

Foundation, 2004, by Juan Logan (American, b. 1946), © Rick Rhodes Photography

Foundation, 2004, by Juan Logan (American, b. 1946), © Rick Rhodes Photography

This sculpture, titled Foundation, 2004, by North Carolina artist Juan Logan, was featured in the 2008 exhibition, Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art.  It consists of 42 blocks made of cast ductile iron (the same iron used for railroad ties). Each block weighs 90lbs for a combined total weight of 3780lbs! Packing and shipping this piece presented an unusual challenge. Thankfully, Juan had shipped the sculpture before and put my mind at ease that movement was actually possible. The sculpture arrived on three pallets with fourteen blocks on each pallet. The blocks were interleaved with cardboard to prevent scratching and each pallet was enclosed in shrink-wrap.JB wrapping pallet 

Pallet

Pallets were moved off the art truck at our loading dock and transported through the museum on pallet jacks. This was probably the most difficult part of the process given the weight of each pallet. Did I mention you have to be strong to work here? Once in the Rotunda Gallery, the sculpture was unwrapped and rebuilt.

Greg Jenkins and former Preparator Jonathan Brilliant disassemble and re-pack Foundation

Greg Jenkins and former Preparator Jonathan Brilliant disassemble and re-pack Foundation

Foundation deinstall2

Teamwork is a huge part of moving and installing artwork. Each member of the installation crew must be perfectly in sync to ensure the safety of the artwork and the art handlers. We are fortunate to have such a great team at the Gibbes!

Check back soon for the next installment of Behind-the-Scenes at the Gibbes. And as always, feel free to post a comment or email me with questions or suggestions.

Community Day

Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Children's Choir caroling on the museum steps

Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Children's Choir caroling on the museum steps

On December 12th, nearly 400 people visited the Gibbes for some holiday cheer during our free Community Day.  Sponsored by the Jr. League of Charleston, this day of family fun included activities for children, face painting, and musical performances by Ashley Hall and Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church. 

Be sure to mark your calendar for our next Community Day on February 20, 2010. 

Face painting is always a hit!

Face painting is always a hit!

Jr. League volunteers Kristi Dodd, Crissy Rowell, Alisa Brooks, Brooks Johnson, and Mollie Meares

Jr. League volunteers Kristi Dodd, Crissy Rowell, Alisa Brooks, Brooks Johnson, and Mollie Meares

Special thanks to our volunteers from the Jr. League of Charleston and the Women’s Council.

Christo Tickets Now on Sale

Join the Gibbes on April 13, 2010 for a memorable evening with the world-renowned artist Christo. For over forty years, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have collaborated on large-scale art projects using fabric in both urban and rural environments. The evening will begin with a presentation focusing on the artists’ previous and upcoming works of art, followed by an open question and answer session and book signing. Don’t miss this opportunity—click here to purchase tickets.

 

CHRISTO – A Presentation and Dialogue

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 5:30pm

Memminger Auditorium, 56 Beaufain Street

$25 members, $35 non-members, $15 student section (limited availability)

 

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83   © Christo 1983

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83 © Christo 1983

 

Christo: The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1996, Collage in two parts, pencil, fabric, pastel, charcoal, wax crayon, and aerial photograph, © Christo 1996

Christo: The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1996, Collage in two parts, pencil, fabric, pastel, charcoal, wax crayon, and aerial photograph, © Christo 1996

Behind-the-Scenes at the Gibbes

Hello to all the Gibbes blog readers! My name is Zinnia Willits and I am the Collections Manager here at the Gibbes. What is a Collections Manager you ask? In the simplest terms, I manage the museum’s art collection and make sure it is well cared for whether in storage, on exhibit, or on loan to another museum. There are many facets to this job; continue to read our blog and you will get a glimpse of some of them!  I will be posting occasionally about work we do behind-the-scenes to bring you the spectacular exhibitions you have come to expect from the Gibbes. A great deal of planning, time, muscle, and design goes into each exhibition we present. Everything from object placement to gallery color to light levels has been carefully considered. We have a great exhibit team here at the Gibbes. Our staff is small but dynamic and we are used to working hard to achieve great things!

Associate Curator Pam Wall working on vinyl signage

Associate Curator Pam Wall working on vinyl signage

Facility Manager/Preparator Greg Jenkins setting lights in the Main Gallery

Facility Manager/Preparator Greg Jenkins setting lights in the Main Gallery

Today I want to talk a little bit about traveling exhibitions that invovle artwork on loan to the Gibbes.

How does artwork travel to the Gibbes? 

Most artwork borrowed for exhibition is transported to the Gibbes via fine art shipping. Fine art shipping is the safest way to move art from point A to point B. All art trucks are climate controlled, have air-ride suspension and lift gates, state-of-the-art security systems, and are driven by trained art handlers.

Fine art truck on the road

Fine art truck on the road

Those not familiar with art shipping are usually shocked when they find out the cost to transport a small crate a short distance. Yes, it’s expensive, but so is the artwork. Every precaution is taken to protect works moving across the state, country, or world.  The peace of mind fine art transport provides both lender and borrower is priceless. Art shipping has grown into a booming industry complete with its own professional organizations and conferences. 

Packing Art for Transit: Crates 

Most exhibitions are packed for transit in one of two ways: crated or soft-packed. Museum-quality crates are built for works that are extremely fragile or have to travel long distances for long stretches of time. Building travel crates is an art form in itself and is carried out with precision and high quality materials. Many fine art shipping companies provide crate construction services. These days it is wise to have a fine art company build your crates as there are numerous shipping restrictions (with more added every day) on the types of wood that can be used, size of crates that can travel via air, method of packing, etc. Depending on the nature of the artwork, crates are usually lined with archival, custom-fit materials with names such as Tyvek, Ethafoam, or Volara and have impact-resistant fiberglass or plywood walls.

Standard crate built for an exhibition that traveled for two years

Standard crate built for an exhibition that traveled for two years

This crate was outfitted with archival boxes to transport quilts

This crate was outfitted with archival boxes to transport quilts

Crates can be simple (for two-dimensional artwork) or complex (such as those constructed for ceramics or sculpture). Specialized crates can be outfitted with a travel frame designed to protect paintings with fragile surfaces. Travel frames attach to the back of a painting and allow free space around the face and sides of the work making it possible to pack and unpack with very little handling.

Crate with travel frame. Notice how the work seems to float in the frame.

Crate with travel frame. Notice how the work seems to float in the frame.

Packing Art for Transit: The “Soft-Pack”

One final comment on museum crates. They are expensive. That being said, there is an alternative to crating: the soft-pack. Yes, this is a made-up word, but those of us who deal with art shipping use it quite a bit. Soft-pack can be an acceptable packing solution but one must consider the condition, medium, and fragility of a work, how long it will travel, how far it will travel, and what mode of transportation it will take. Although soft-pack styles vary, there are basic guidelines for understanding what this means. Generally, to soft-pack a work means to wrap it with a moisture barrier (such as plastic, glassine, or bubble wrap) and then create a custom box (usually made from sheets of cardboard) to surround the artwork. This is also referred to as a slip case.

Brian Rutenberg paintings in slip cases

Brian Rutenberg paintings in slip cases

Collections Manager Zinnia Willits unwrapping a slip-cased painting

Collections Manager Zinnia Willits unwrapping a slip-cased painting

Soft-packing works for transit is cost-effective and can be done safely. The current exhibition of works by Brian Rutenberg arrived in slip cases. This type of packing made the most sense for these paintings. They are in excellent condition and shipped directly from the Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina to the Gibbes. They will return in the same direct manner when the exhibition closes in January. The Melberg Gallery created top-of-the-line slip cases and added special touches such as padded frame corners and folded tape edges which made unpacking much easier!

So there you have it, some information on art packing and transit and a sneak peek at our galleries in the midst of installation. There are other cool things we do to make the exhibitions great but more on that in the next installment of Behind-the-Scenes at the Gibbes. By the way, if there is something you want me to write about or you have a question about art handling, storage, transportation, packing, etc. feel free to post a comment here or drop me an email at zwillits@gibbesmuseum.org.

Cell Phone Audio Tour

Laura Reece listening to the audio tour

Laura Reece listening to the audio tour

Did you know the Gibbes offers a cell phone audio tour? And the best part is that it’s free! The audio tour allows you to access in-depth information about the museum collection and selected objects on view from your personal cell phone. This format offers the flexibility to explore the museum at your own pace and hear directly from artists, the museum director, and even Mayor Joe Riley. Who knew your cell phone could be so educational?

Harold Hintz and Phyllis Black enjoying the audio tour

Harold Hintz and Phyllis Black enjoying the audio tour

Laura Reece learning about Jill Hooper's painting

Laura Reece learning about Jill Hooper's painting

The cell phone audio tour is made possible by the generous support of Dr. and Mrs. Anton Vreede.

Mary Whyte Art Educator Award

Smith Coleman, Mary Whyte, 2009 winner Dayton Colie, and Angela Mack

Smith Coleman, Mary Whyte, 2009 winner Dayton Colie, and Angela Mack

The Gibbes is currently accepting nominations for the 2010 Mary Whyte Art Educator Award. Established in 2007, the award is designed to honor a high school visual art teacher in the tri-county area (Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester school districts) who has demonstrated superior commitment to their students and to their craft. The award is accompanied by a cash prize of $1,000 and is administered and presented annually by the Gibbes.

Nominations are accepted from principals, school administrators, fellow teachers, and community leaders. Self nominations are also accepted, click here for more information and how to apply. Should you have any questions, please contact Rebecca Williams at (843) 722-2706, ext. 41 or rcwilliams@gibbesmuseum.org