I am the Registrar at Tate Liverpool, which means that I am responsible for some of the less glamorous aspects of making exhibitions.
Basically, I get the artworks here for exhibition and send them back afterwards, that may seem simple but it is a complicated and time-consuming business. Each object has to be packed safely, a route and method of transport planned, and a timetable drawn up for collection and delivery, packing and unpacking and installation.
Over the past couple of weeks, the René Magritte exhibition has been arriving, piece by piece, over 250 of them, at all hours of the day and night, and the art handlers and I have been waiting to unload the vehicles and sign in the deliveries. Magritte’s have flown in from America, Canada, Japan, Korea and Singapore, and there have been a number of vehicles from Europe. It is a real challenge to combine shipments in the most cost-effective way, while ensuring the works travel safely and arrive at a manageable pace for installation.
As you might imagine, artworks must be documented, transported and handled with the utmost care at all times. Each work travels with a stack of paperwork, and some come with a courier, a person who oversees the unpacking and installation, and who may even travel with them on the aircraft or truck. We have 36 couriers for Magritte, which is the most we have had yet. They are always impressed with Tate’s waterside location and the number of galleries, museums and other places of interest in Liverpool if they have time to explore. However, they are less enthusiastic about the weather!
When the last case is signed in, labelled up and placed in the gallery, the art handling (see blogs by my colleague Ken Simons), conservation and curatorial teams take over to unpack and install them, and I can begin planning the return journey.