As Paul Klee’s inimitable works start arriving at Tate Modern, the curator of The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee – Making Visible, Matthew Gale, takes time out of a busy installation schedule to talk us through the process

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  • Paul Klee exhibition installation Tate Modern 2013

    Curator Matthew Gale and Assistant Curator Flavia Frigeri check their plans for hanging the works in Room 15

  • Paul Klee exhibition installation Tate Modern 2013

    Tate Klee works waiting to be hung during installation

  • Paul Klee exhibition installation Tate Modern 2013
  • Paul Klee exhibition installation Tate Modern 2013

    Room 7 of the exhibition in its installation phase

  • Paul Klee exhibition installation Tate Modern 2013

    The gallery walls being painted in the run-up to the installation

This week, we’re putting the finishing touches to Tate Modern’s Paul Klee exhibition, before it opens next Wednesday.

I’ve been working on The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee Making Visible for the last three years and the week before a show actually opens is incredibly exciting and incredibly draining all at the same time.

The rest of my job continues while preparing a show, but for the installation I clear my diary. By this time, when we’re clear to bring people’s precious works in, the previous exhibition will already have been physically removed, the walls will have been rebuilt and repainted. While all that’s happening, we’re putting the finer touches to the way in which we’re going to interpret the works for the public, and thinking in increasing detail about how we’re actually going to locate them in the spaces.

Paul Klee exhibition installation Tate Modern 2013

Assistant Curator Flavia Frigeri (left) and curator Matthew Gale (right) shifting paper templates to plan the display of works in Room 15

For Klee, we’re using as our rule of thumb that he had two coloured walls in his studio in Dessau, one which was black and one which was blue. We’ve actually decided to just have black and white walls, using the black to really give strength to the more subtle works to give them just a little lift. I personally feel that it ought to be the paintings that do the talking.

Because we only have a short space of time in which to install, we have made decisions like this in advance whenever possible many of the rooms are already there in our heads; we just need to put them on the wall. They’re never absolutely set in stone, because we want to be able to respond to the works when they arrive, but we do have to be very organised, partly because we know that most of the works are arriving at certain times via couriers these are people who accompany the work on its journey to Tate and that for a large proportion of works, once it’s on the wall in the courier’s presence, you can’t change it.

Paul Klee exhibition installation Tate Modern 2013

Curators Matthew Gale and Flavia Frigeri discussing the position of works due to be hung on the gallery walls

Time is very precious, and there’s some spillage into the weekend in order to get all the panels on the wall and so on, so it’s a very busy period.

What I do like to do in the installation at one point is to be in the space without everybody else there at the end of the day. You’ve really got to concentrate and it’s the only time you can do it the next week, it’ll be open to the public. You only have that one chance to get it right.

Paul Klee exhibition installation Tate Modern 2013

The red-painted entrance to the exhibition, currently closed but will open next week!

The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee Making Visible opens at Tate Modern on 16 October