We are now exactly one month from the opening of Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art, and activity in the galleries is already well underway. The first of the installation artists will arrive in just one week to begin constructing their works, and the exhibition’s curator, designer, and conservators have all been working tirelessly to have everything ready in time.
As the Curatorial Assistant for the Exhibitions Division, I have been assisting in various capacities as needed. I communicate with the artists daily regarding their installation schedules and the materials they will require to complete their pieces here at the Museum, and relay to them any information or questions from the registrar or designer. I also work alongside the conservators to schedule mock-ups, audio/visual testing in the galleries, and to source and order all installation materials – everything from glue guns to tires, pushpins to plastic skeletons.
The image above encapsulates much of what I have been working on. Here you see the beginning of a work by Hew Locke, entitled Vita, Veritas, Victoria (Life, Truth, Victory). A transparency provided by the artist is projected on a wall, traced in pencil, and covered entirely with cord. Finally, strings of beads are hung on the wall, creating an incredibly large and intricately detailed installation. It will take roughly ten days to complete and we have appointed a team of four art handlers to assist the artist when he arrives later this month.
In order to fully realize the artist’s vision, we also needed to assist in finding and purchasing approximately 1000 feet of black polyester cord, to be stapled to the wall over the tracing. Mr. Locke had a specific cord in mind which is no longer available for purchase, and so he sent us a few samples from London, hoping that we could find a match.
Lisa Bruno, Objects Conservator for the exhibition, searched around and called in several suitable replacements to compare with our preferred sample. Though we did not locate an exact match, one was quite close. We brought it back to Mr. Locke and awaited a verdict….
Success! The sample was approved and we ordered the required 1000 feet of it – nearly 1/5 of a mile! The next time you see it, this raw material will be adhered to the wall creating a work of art nearly 18 feet high. Hew Locke is one of 45 artists participating in this exhibition, and we strive for this level of exactitude with every installation.
In addition to Vita, Veritas, Victoria (Life, Truth, Victory), be sure to keep an eye out for El Dorado, also by Hew Locke. It is the signature piece for the exhibition and graces the cover of the accompanying catalog.
As a relatively new member of the staff, this is my first major project at the Museum and it has truly been an eye-opening experience for me thus far. Much time and energy goes into the preparation of each installation long before the artist arrives, and I do my best to ensure that the process is smooth, both for the artists and for all Museum personnel involved with the exhibition.
I’ll be back with more behind-the-scenes tidbits for you as we continue the countdown to opening day!
Tamara Schechter joined the new Exhibitions Division as a Curatorial Assistant in October 2006. Born and raised in Queens, Tamara received her BA in Art History from Barnard College, Columbia University, and has had internships at Sotheby’s, the Frick Art Reference Library, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As the Exhibitions assistant, Tamara provides curatorial and administrative support to the entire Division, comprised of three Curators, the Exhibitions Manager, and the Interpretive Materials Manager.