Tuesday, May 19, 2009

L’art américain, de 1850 à 1950. L’époque de la maturité

I recently had the opportunity to travel up north to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec in Québec City, Canada, to spend a week overseeing the unpacking and installation of our travelling exhibition Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s-1950s opening there this Thursday, May 21st. While the installation went smoothly, and was accomplished by a very professional crew, there were some interesting things to note.

Galleries at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du QuébecFirst of all, the Musée's installation process was unlike any I had participated in before. Typically, we unpack all the artwork first, check their condition, and then the Curators and Preparators spend time fine-tuning the arrangement of the objects before finally installing everything. The Musée did things a bit differently.

Due to the limited space in their exhibition galleries, they unpacked only four or five crates at a time. I would then work with their conservator, Francine Gauthier, to condition report each object before it was immediately installed on the wall. The Musée had already worked out and finalized the arrangement of the artwork beforehand. A small architectural model of the gallery was used for reference. Painted with colors matching those the actual galleries' walls, it was fitted with scale replicas of each object in the show. This takes a great amount of skill...regardless of how well you work out a layout beforehand, it is rarely equivalent to seeing the actual objects together, and many times, you have to change the layout as you go. At the Musée, however, there would be no changes. They were so confident, in fact, they had already installed the lighting before we unpacked to shine on the spots on the walls where each object would be hung!

The invitation to the opening of L’art américain, de 1850 à 1950.Secondly, the crew spoke French. Most of the time, I honestly did not understand a word they were saying. The only time I heard English was when I was being spoken to. It went well, regardless, though, and I actually ended up learning a few words of French in the end.

I encourage all our readers to visit L’art américain, de 1850 à 1950. L’époque de la maturité. It will be on view through September 7th. The show looks fantastic in Québec City and it is your last opportunity to see our "greatest hits" before we reopen next year!

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

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