Diary of an Install

This week we are de-installing The Power of the Sea exhibition and beginning the installation of the Back From the Front Exhibition Series. Ralf Togneri has been helping our Technical Team and is keeping a blog of the progress, here is his entry from Monday.

“The Power of the Sea Exhibition closed yesterday.  Today, Monday the usual Academy closed day, found me and a new volunteer Emma, coming to help with the Tech aspects.  (Tech is a form of organised chaos – removing works from the walls, packing, and packaging works, meeting their timetables of the companies who collect the works and take them back to the galleries from which they were borrowed)

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We arrived almost at the same time, about 10ish to find that Tristan and Ben, the gallery’s regular technical guys had arrived around 7 am, supported by professional technicians, Rachel and Nick, to start things moving.  The first photo shows the main galleries at around 10 with trestle-tables in place, packing cases to carry art works home and handling equipment already in place!


Taking art down is easier than putting it up – first of all you know where it is (no ‘taste’ councils deciding which piece goes where), the problems of hanging a piece of work have already been thought about and solved (all you have to remember is the order of putting it up and reversing it), Tristan and Ben have a schedule of art leaving the RWA (priorities already set) so it is al straight forward and simple!!  Oh yeah, when you need five bodies to lift a massive and extremely valuable piece from the wall and only four can be found; when screws that went in easily do not want to come out at all; when you need foam blocks to protect the art work from the floor and vice versa and none is around.  Oh yeah, it is simple!


Amazingly, by around 12.30 when we stop for lunch – Tristan, Ben, Rachel and Nick had been there since 7 or so, not such a strain for Emma or me – a major number of works were off the walls, protected, mirror-mounts removed (the side mounts that secure work to the walls), useless screws thrown away – see photo.


Ah, refreshed, ready for the afternoon session.  The modern works already off the walls are being wrapped, some of the major borrowed works are crated and now we start of the LARGE and super valuable works.  This time supervised and supported by a a member of the lending gallery.  Conservation handling and management of removals after a condition report is written – thank goodness for the Art Handling training run by the RWA!  Satisfied, the lending gallery member monitors as we remove the work from the wall, supported at all times by physical labour, lowered gently onto polystyrene protective blocks, mirror-mounts removed, handling and packaging notes checked and then packaging using the correct for each work.  It is steady rather than slow, deliberate actions thought about and taken while all the time the whole piece of work is preserved and conserved.  This includes not only the work itself but also its frame, and if appropriate its glazing too.  Once the conservator is satisfied packing can continue.  Physically tiring holding a valuable work safely once the wall mounts are removed – emotionally worrying if you slip or move it too quickly.  It is the old 99% steady and 1% panic.  But each piece is safely stowed in the correct transit packaging, take a breather and start again.

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Emma, a music graduate who plays oboe, has had an enjoyable and eye-opening day.  “I have learned so much about art and the whole gallery way of doing things.  It has been an interesting and enjoyable day”.  I break off and go back to my usual day and leave the rest of the team working away.  Tomorrow morning Emma and I will be back with the others to move things on until the galleries are empty, ready to be spruced up before hanging the next show.  Now that is another story.”


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