Monday, November 24, 2008

An Epic Adventure: Venice to Fort Lauderdale, Part III

For Part I of this story, click here. For Part II, click here.

On day three of the trip, I met our massive freight plane at Luxembourg Airport. Our palletized crates were being loaded into the belly of the craft through gaping hatches in its nose and sides. I climbed up several steep ladders to the top where the small passenger cabin was located behind the cockpit. Other than the crew, I would be the plane’s only passenger for the trip.

Though the weather was perfect, our flight left late due to a weight distribution issue encountered while loading the cargo. I chuckled to myself: weight, once again, was causing me delay. A strong headwind extended the flight itself to more than ten hours, and we didn’t arrive in Miami until after 10:30PM EST.

After nearly choking on the hot, sticky Floridian air, I went through customs, and, once our crates were off-loaded from the plane and removed from their pallets, again, using a variety of large forklifts, I watched them loaded onto trucks for the forty-five minute trip to the Museum of Art-Fort Lauderdale. There I was met by the museum’s bleary-eyed crew and we off-loaded the crates from the trucks and finally deposited them safely in their exhibition gallery. We finished at 2:30AM, twenty-five hours since I woke up that morning and seventy-three hours after I had left Venice.

I reported to the museum the next day and, over several days, we unpacked the artwork, checked its condition, laid out the show, and installed the paintings on the walls and the sculpture on pedestals (see above and right). The artwork had made it without any damage, testament to the well-built crates and the careful handling by all who moved them. Everything was set for the opening on November 6th.

While this marked the end of this adventure, this was not the end of the show. Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s will be traveling to Canada to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in Québec City next year and that transport will present a whole new set of challenges. But, for now, my work was done, and I flew back to Boston knowing our collection was in excellent hands in Florida.

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Message from Brian Allen

A Message from Brian Allen, Addison Gallery Director

These are indeed extraordinary times for the Addison and the museum world. I am writing to you today to offer some thoughts on what is happening at the Addison in the context of our country's - and the world's - challenging and indeed perilous economic conditions.

It is obvious that everyone is affected. As Barbara Chase correctly observed in her recent good report to Phillips Academy alumni, students, faculty, staff, and parents - in this climate there is really no place to hide. The Addison is not immune to these challenges, and the Gallery as I see it will be affected in five basic ways:

1. Our endowment is part of the school’s, and though the school’s endowment has dropped less than most, the income available to the Addison will nonetheless drop. About 55 percent of our revenue comes from this source, with our drawdown based on a rolling average of thirteen quarters. While this affords us some cushion, the Addison will feel the impact of this drop in the endowment for some time to come.

2. A substantial portion of our annual income comes each fiscal year from gifts from individuals and foundations. We recently sent out our first appeal. Again, I know that everyone is affected. Giving to the arts will most likely suffer. A museum director has to be an optimist to succeed, however. Our donor base is loyal. The Addison “cause” is of the very highest quality. The letter makes a strong case for support.

3. There is a large hole in the ground on the Addison site with construction workers busily producing an expanded, renovated building. We are fortunate that we achieved over eighty percent of our construction goal before the onset of the financial crisis. Though Addison supporters have been generous, we still have $8.5 million of our $30 million construction and endowment goal to go. Again, our donor base is strong. It might take us longer but ultimately we will reach our target.

4. The Addison partners with many institutions as we send our traveling shows out to the world. I made a tally a few weeks ago that surprised even me - our Addison organized shows have traveled to over 40 cities in America, Europe, and even Australia over the last few years. When our shows travel, we get rental income that pays the cost of assembling them. Our exhibition schedule is planned through the spring of 2012, and almost all of the traveling slots for our shows are filled. This is a tribute to the quality of our exhibitions - people in other museums are enthusiastic about taking our shows. Again, I come back to my recurring theme that everyone is affected. Many museums will suffer badly as the economic crisis unfolds. It is not inconceivable that one of our partners will cancel programming for financial reasons, leaving us with a gap in expected income as well as a hole in our traveling exhibition schedule. I am working to minimize this chance by partnering only with institutions that historically have been financially stable.

5. Like every other department of Phillips Academy, the Addison will reduce its budget by 2 percent. Earlier I described myself as an optimist but in one thing I am decidedly pessimistic. I think the economic downturn will be deep and will last quite a long time. The staff and I here at the Gallery will look not only at reductions allowing us to comply with the 2 percent guideline set by the school, but we will also look at everything we do with the belief that changes we make now will prevent more painful changes later. If we do not realize our annual appeal expectations, we will have to reduce more. All of us have to understand and accept that there will be some things we hope and want to do that we will not be able to do under current circumstances.

The Addison will weather this storm. On this, I am a most passionate and committed optimist. Our collection continues to grow. Donors continue to support us with gifts of money and art. We are producing exciting shows and catalogues. New donors are supporting us, and we are keeping in touch with our longtime donors. The Addison will be here serving students, artists, connoisseurs, and lovers of art for many, many years to come. For all the economic troubles at our door step and the world’s, the Addison has much for which to be thankful: the progress we have made in our campaign, the great reception our shows receive when they travel, and the continuing support and warm wishes of our friends and the audience we serve.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Update on the Addison Renovation and Expansion

Construction on the Addison's renovation and addition is proceeding well as the rush is on to get as much done before the freezing temperatures and winter weather set in.

Outside, the entire area around the Addison has become a construction zone. Concrete has been poured to form the footings and walls of the addition's first level (see left, click on images to make them larger). Holes have been cut into the facade to accommodate the new handicapped accessible elevator while various windows slated to be removed have
been blocked off.

Inside, the old bathrooms have been demolished and the new ones are being piped. Walls that once separated rooms on the basement and main floors have been removed and are being rebuilt according to the new plans. The old elevator has been removed and the shaft expanded to accommodate a larger one capable of lifting our largest objects to all levels of the museum. The door to our new library space is being expanded (see right). Its marble trim will be switched with the trim for the smaller doorway to our education office. The wall that created an office space in our first floor back gallery is gone, restoring the space to its original size. A lively crew of construction workers are crawling throughout the site and it seems as if every inch of the original building is covered to protect the finishes from damage during the renovation.

The spaces in the Elson Art Center are being reconfigured to accommodate an entrance to our new Museum Learning Center (at left, the new rendering). With the footings in place and areas of the existing building reconfigured, we can begin to see how our addition will connect with and complement the original museum. We are also amazed to see how much has happened in such a short period and realize that our targeted completion date of Spring, 2010 is coming quickly!

Be sure to check in at our website for regular updates on the construction process as we count down the days to our reopening!

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Epic Adventure: Venice to Fort Lauderdale, Part II

For Part I of this story, click here.

What should have been an eight hour trip became thirteen. We left the Swiss border and drove out of the Alps, trucked across northern Italy, cut back up north around Turin, and headed into the Alps again. We drove through tunnel after tunnel, each one longer than the last, until we finally stopped at Mont Blanc (see left). Because we had a refrigerated truck, we had to wait for an escort vehicle to take us through the 11.6 km tunnel underneath. Once we were through we were finally in France. All we had to do was pay a fee to pass…it was nothing like the Swiss checkpoint.

We arrived at the high-security art storage warehouse in Lyon around 9:00PM and parked the truck completely inside. The next morning, we were back on the road by 7:30AM dealing with horrific rush-hour traffic in pouring rain. We drove another eight hours through gorgeous French countryside of rolling green farmland dotted with sleepy cows. We finally crossed the border into Luxembourg around 3:30PM, which was as eventful as crossing from Massachusetts into New Hampshire: no manned checkpoint and no stopping. We were at the cargo terminal at Luxembourg airport in no time.

One of the challenges in arranging art transport is finding the best way to get the artwork to its next destination as directly as possible. In this case, due to the size of our crates, we required a large freight plane, and the only plane large enough that flew directly to Miami closest to Venice was in Luxembourg. Soon, though, we had offloaded the truck and I gave my Italian drivers a fond farewell before they left on their long ride back to Italy.

Using a variety of large forklifts, the air cargo crew efficiently, but carefully, loaded our crates onto large, thin airline palettes. Once everything was strapped down, a huge machine then picked up the palettes and deposited them into their fully-automated warehouse facility where they would sit at in a climatized environment until they were loaded on the plane the following day.

Stay tuned for part three, posting soon on Blog Addison!

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An Epic Adventure: Venice to Fort Lauderdale, Part I

Our traveling exhibition Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s opens Thursday, November 6th at the Museum of Art-Fort Lauderdale. As with every traveling show, there are many challenges involved in transporting the artwork where it needs to go, unpacking it, and installing it. This show was no exception. I had the privilege of accompanying part of it from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (see left) in Venice, Italy to Florida, and it definitely became an epic adventure full of challenges.

The show is transported between venues in multiple shipments with a courier on board. My shipment, a three day trip, was to be trucked from Venice to Luxembourg with an overnight stop in Switzerland. From Luxembourg, a freight plane would take the show to Miami where it would then be trucked to Fort Lauderdale.

On the first day, at 6:45AM, I met my part of the show at our Italian art transporter’s warehouse facility outside of Venice. The show had already been packed and brought there. The crates were loaded on the truck and I met my drivers for the trip. Neither spoke English and my own Italian was rudimentary. As the drivers double-checked the paperwork, a tiny little Italian/English dictionary bounced out of the truck. I handed it back to them, not knowing then how important that book would become.

With a sprinkle in the air, we left on our journey. Our route took us to Milan before we turned north. We hit the Alps around lunch time and approached the Swiss border north of Lake Como (see right). After several checkpoints and approvals, we drove the truck up to the window of the final checkpoint and passed our paperwork to a clerk inside.

The clerk shook her head and from her broken Italian I understood her to tell us to take the truck back around to a weighing station. We backed up and drove the truck to the scale. After many long minutes, we learned, “C’è un problema.” Using the little dictionary to help translate, I figured out there was a very minor discrepancy in our paperwork regarding the weight of the truck. The Swiss, ever-precise, were not going to let us through.

After checking with our transporter’s main office, it was determined that we were going to reroute our truck around Switzerland and go through France instead. We would overnight in Lyon and head to Luxembourg from there. It would take a bit longer, but the paperwork would not be a problem at the French border. So, with reluctance, we turned the truck around and headed out the way we came: back to Italy…then on to France.

Stay tuned for part two, posting soon on Blog Addison!

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives