Where the Action Is

There’s nothing quite like exhibition installation—lots of museum staff bustling about the galleries, cacophonous construction sounds, objects not yet installed and out of context. In other words, it’s the exact opposite of a gallery open to the public. Last week I checked in on the Franz West installation over the course of one day; here’s what I saw…

Poster Design by Franz West, based on Tiles Printed by Tamuna Sirbiladze, 2008

Poster Design by Franz West, based on Tiles Printed by Tamuna Sirbiladze, 2008

9:30 am: Senior Curator Stephanie Barron arrives. (Yes, she’s the Art of Two Germanys curator as well. A busy lady.) Installers begin unpacking crates—big plywood boxes with black stenciling on them—many of which seem large enough to fit a piano. A number of works on paper are already on the walls. They will remain covered with sheets of butcher paper until closer to the opening to protect them from light, which can cause deterioration over time.

11:45 am: I come back and notice lots of chairs scattered about; these are actually objects created by West that visitors are welcome to sit on. Right now, out of the context of a polished exhibition, they look like part of the busy scene and, for me at least, not yet like art.

1:30 pm: I return to the gallery amidst a discussion about mounting three large light sculptures that are intended to hang from the ceiling—Kobo (2003), Prieso (2003), and Hermo (2003). It’s a tough job, and there’s just one shot to get it right. Lots of gesticulating from the top of the scissor lift. 5 JA “Take This” (1977), a newspaper clipping colored with fluorescent orange paint, sits on a nearby table awaiting inspection on its condition.

4 pm: I pop by one final time as the day draws to a close and run into conservator Don Menveg, who is rolling out an unusual-looking vacuum from the galleries. It was originally used to clean Jeff Koons’s Tulips, which was on view in the BP Grand Entrance when BCAM opened. This time, Don has put it to work on West’s objects. Vacuuming art. Somehow that never crossed my mind before.

More on the Franz West installation later this week. For now, a hint: things get a little dicey.

Allison Agsten

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