Walking into our exhibition staging area these days is a bit of a challenge. What used to be a vast open work space is now full of the distinctive dry sawdust scent of crates. Dozens of crates full of treasures, all lined up in neat rows or tucked into the odd corner with just enough space for a small person to shimmy between.
With more than 160 objects in Lords of the Samurai—ranging from delicate tea scoops to a 500 pound bronze bell—and with each object carefully packed and sometimes accompanied by accessories or installation equipment, the exhibition takes up a surprising amount of storage space. All of this artwork is staying snug in storage while the museum preparation crew outfits the ground floor galleries with drama enough for a Samurai lord.
Between exhibitions, the galleries undergo sometimes astonishing transformations. Walls are torn down and rebuilt. Cases change color from cream to red and back again. Huge sheets of plexiglass are carefully lowered into place. Lights change direction, banners drop down, and sometimes new sources of sound and video enter the mix. What eventually emerges from this controlled chaos is a space that will transport museum visitors to another time and place.
But just as it isn’t very safe to hang around a construction zone, the gallery in transition is a no-go place for art. Only after construction is complete will the incoming objects leave the safety of storage to be carefully installed in their fancy new digs.
Until then, it’s crazy crates everywhere.
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