Selection & Display: Implementation

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Paul Moorhouse: Doing a complex project like an exhibition involves a lot of people. The curator begins the process, and in some ways drives the process, but increasingly as the project develops, more and more assistance and advice and support, so we’re talking about design, publication, press, fund raising, exhibition managers, people who do all the paperwork, do all the administration and the transport, works from Japan and America and all over the world. It’s all extremely labour intensive.
Sarah Tinsley: The art handlers get involved at an early stage when we might be discussing a particular work – are there any issues in relation to handling, movement, installation, but their real work start when loans start arriving at the gallery.
Karl Lydon: The art handlers get their direction from the creators or the exhibition organisers, who we work with, who we take our lead from.
Sarah Tinsley: They’re going to unpack each work, they then get condition checked, not by the art handlers, either by a conservator or an exhibition manager. Then they will lay them out according to a plan we’ve made. They will put fittings onto the works, and then when it comes to the actual instillation they will work with a curator, an exhibition manage, or myself or the director, on deciding what is going where. They’re moving things around, they’re getting thing into place, and once we agree on a place we discuss the height, and any particular requirement involved in that work, and then they’ll hang that work.
Juliet Horsley:For the actual hanging height of the works, we’re very much aware of the fact that everything should be as easy to see as possible for people of all heights, including visitors who may be using wheelchairs, so we try not to have too many works too high from that point of view. Also children or smaller people, we don’t want to have to peer up, to make it difficult to read the labels or see the work.
Louise Briggs: Once we’ve shaped the exhibition, then we write text and work really closely with out learning team, so they’ll input into the text for the gallery.
Tarnya Cooper: One of the really challenging things is writing captions. Sometimes you’ve got a person you’re trying to explain with a portrait of him, and he’s had a really amazing life, a man or a woman, did all sorts of incredible things, and you’ve got 70 words to say why this person’s important. Of course you can probably think of loads of things why he’s important, but what the headline story is is more important.
Juliet Horsley: We like to keep the language of the text simple and straight forward so it’s easily understandable, but we also want to make sure that the font size is such that people can read it easily.
Karl Lydon: Working with the pictures can be a little nerve-wracking because some of the frames are very, very old as are the paintings, things are fragile, and valuable. Luckily we’ve never had any really scary moments.
Ambrose Scott-Montcrief: We check the condition of the paintings as they arrive, and the reason for that is if there’s any damage somewhere there can be quarrels. It’s a bit forensic really because we have to make sure that when receive something it leaves in the same condition.
David McNeff: A good day is when it all goes to plan. It all happens, the stuff goes on the back of a lorry, in the right crate. It’s nice to walk through the gallery and see people looking at stuff, with that faint smile of recognition. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s a job well done. That what we’re here to do, and we’ve done it, done it properly.
Ambrose Scott-Montcrief: You’ve done your but, the public can enjoy the thing, everything’s as it should be, the job’s over.
Paul Moorhouse: There’s one thing that I never get bored with, it’s when I’m hanging a display or hanging an exhibition, and all the pictures are on the floor, and I think, how are these things going to fit together? Sometimes it can be like a very complex puzzle, and I think it’s never going to work out, but I always forget, and then I always remember, that when the pictures are taken up and put on the wall, there’s this magic that happens and they spring to life, and they look absolutely wonderful. That’s the great bit, that’s when you know that art really counts.
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Sometimes it can be like a very complex puzzle, and I think it’s never going to work out…

Paul Moorhouse, Curator, National Portrait Gallery

You have a story to tell. You need to be able communicate it effectively with the rest of the team. You need support from marketing and press to tell people about the exhibition. You need support from the exhibition designer to realise your story in a visual and appropriate way. You need support from learning to organise related events for different audiences. And you need to be able to communicate the story successfully to the public in the exhibition space.

What methods of communication will you establish to inform everyone about the project and ensure the exhibition schedule is tight?

Have you reviewed the press and marketing campaign to ensure it’s giving out the right message to the right audience?

Have you reviewed the design of the exhibition space?

What layers of interpretation will be in the space?