For museum visitors, the exhibition Bali: Art, Performance, Ritual closed on September 11, more than two months ago. But for me, the Bali exhibition has only recently truly ended. As the registrar charged with ensuring the safe travel of the exhibition objects, I can’t call my job done until the last object has been safely returned home.
Most of the objects in Bali were borrowed from lenders in the Netherlands. Returning these works was therefore quite a journey.
On a Sunday evening I watched as a semi-truck was loaded with the crated artwork at the museum. We then hit the rode for an all night drive to Los Angeles International Airport, arriving at 4:00 AM for a flight several hours later. We waited in the truck until it was time to load the cargo.
It is my responsibility to make sure that all the crates make it safely on the plane. This can be one of the most stressful parts of the journey because I cannot board the plane until all the crates are inside the aircraft. I have a security supervisor down on the tarmac who will call me to tell me that it is okay to board. For this flight I can also see the loading from the window of the boarding area. Only half the crates have made it onto the plane when the flight crew calls for final boarding. I have to pull out my best negotiating skills to explain why I am not able to get on the plane. Fortunately, the crew allows me to check in and I only board after I receive that crucial phone call giving me the okay.
The journey doesn’t end at the airport in Amsterdam. I must next accompany the crates back to the many lenders all over the Netherlands. Here is a photo from inside the truck while on the road.
Our objects conservator, Mark Fenn, flew directly to Amsterdam to assist with final condition checking. As each crate is returned to its owner, we must unpack them and condition check the objects to make sure that they traveled safely. In the picture below Mark is working with Fiona MacKinnon, registrar from the Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, Leiden. They are looking over the golden throne chairs that were featured in the exhibition. The chairs are safely back in the storage area in Leiden.
I am pleased to report that all the objects from the Bali exhibition traveled safely back to the lenders in the Netherlands and in the United States. I finally get to close these files and begin concentrating on my next exhibition project, Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past, opening in May 2012.
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