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’รจ 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

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