What is the workflow like when planning for a new exhibition? Do you ever involve changing the architecture and interiors to accommodate an exhibition? When does Collection Care come into the conversation, or is it a constant communication between yourself, Yunsun and your teams?
Specifically talking about the temporary exhibitions space on the lower ground floor, we have a program planned ahead between three and five years. It can take a long time to request our loans and secure loans, and look at the 3D planning of exhibitions. It’s really a balance between addressing some of the conservation requirements and display requirements that we’ve already discussed, but then really looking at the visitor experience. We work with exhibition designers to help us with that in terms of the 3D and 2D approach.
We have a big project team that work on temporary exhibitions. We work to a design program that will be familiar to you (architect’s workflow) in terms of concept, detail, and delivery scheme. That design process really helps us, curators, exhibitions designers and conservators to plan our work flow moving forward and how we make those creative decisions along a timeline. It might be that we’re trying to make creative decisions before we’ve even secured a loan.
In terms of working with designers, optimum viewing and balancing conservation needs, we’ve inherited this incredibly decorative scheme, we are looking at different ways at the moment at how we can play around with the viewing experience. Anything with the interiors that we’d like to refurbish, or any lighting that we’d like to change, the blinds - whether we allow sunlight or UV, we’re looking at all that moving forward.
Dr Yuriko Jackall:
It’s a balance between seeing works in a very decorative scheme which is beautiful but feels quite perfect unto itself. So when you pull something out of that, first of all, you create this knock-on effect where you need to replace it with something but it needs to come from somewhere else. There is a real sense of excitement to see things in a totally different context. And that’s the really wonderful thing about the new exhibition space that Clare has built with our director. It’s an opportunity for us to show the permanent collection to visitors in a totally new way. A lot of the projects we are working on takes the permanent collection as a starting point, our design to bring works into dialogue with loans from other collections that they’ve never encountered each other before. In our case, it really has never encountered before because we have never lent before and haven’t had a precedent of doing big exhibitions.
A lot of the projects we are working on takes the permanent collection as a starting point, our design to bring works into dialogue with loans from other collections that they’ve never encountered each other before. In our case, it really has never encountered before because we have never lent before and haven’t had a precedent of doing big exhibitions.
Dr Yuriko Jackall, Curator of French Paintings, The Wallace Collection
In terms of things that are coming up, all three of us are involved in the Fragonard exhibition that we’re working towards. The starting point is the Fragonard collection in the permanent collection, and most notably The Swing, one of the big stars of the museum, his most iconic painting. We’re going to be trying to use that painting in particular as a way to think about different types of projects that we can do and different ways which we can play with the displays. For instance, we’re going to be studying it on its own, work by Fragonard, and trying to create programming around that process. We are working towards a bigger exhibition bringing together all of our paintings by Fragonard, but also bringing them together with different loans. That will go in the temporary exhibition space. It will be an opportunity to see it differently within the permanent collection during one phase of the project, and the next with other works.
On keeping the art collection safe, there is an increasing number of people taking photos on their cameras or phones to post on social media, how does the accidental flash affect the safety of the collection? The Wallace Collection can get quite busy with bottlenecks of the visiting crowd in the galleries, does this affect your strategy in keeping the collection safe?
Flashlight photography is forbidden. We are quite lucky we have visitor assistants in the gallery space so they can still invigilate the galleries as well. You have probably noticed in our galleries, we don’t have barriers and we don’t have sound alarms. You will see the galleries space as if you’re walking into your own house, enjoy the setting, but also to show that we don’t have a lot of our paintings glazed either because traditionally the paintings hasn't been glazed. So if you’re looking at the gallery, just the galleries and how it’s displayed, all the items, apart from the items that are displayed inside the display cases, are pretty much on an open display. So it does come with lots of challenges, so visitor assistants are very important.
…we don’t have barriers...You will see the galleries space as if you’re walking into your own house, enjoy the setting, but also to show that we don’t have a lot of our paintings glazed either because traditionally the paintings hasn't been glazed."
Yunsun Choi, Head of Collection Care, The Wallace Collection
Also, for example, we put furniture in front of the paintings. People cannot go too close to the paintings, they have a certain distance from the painting. But also, in that case, we just leave the historic paintings vulnerable, but we do wax them. When you wax the paintings, it does protect the furniture as much as possible. It supports the furniture from being scratched, if water droplet is in there, we can actually wipe them out. We use different measures to support our collection as much as possible.
Barriers itself can also be a danger. I used to work at Tate, sometimes there are huge exhibitions with lots of people coming in. The barriers are quite low, I have seen people trip over the barrier, and landing on the painting, damaging the painting. When people are walking backwards, and if they are not aware of certain barriers, it does trip people. We’re lucky that we didn’t have any serious accidents.