It has been enjoyable following the planning of the AGO’s Maharaja exhibition, but what I have been dying to see is the actual installation process. Finally, I get my invitation.
“Do you have steel-toed boots?” reads the email.
I arrive and I am guided through a labyrinthine set of hallways (I start to panic a little, thinking to myself that it might be a good idea to leave a trail of crumbs behind so I can find my way out). We pass one more set of doors, get my name checked by security and voila, we’re finally here, at a half-finished construction site.
Looking around, I feel like I’m a kid again when my family visited the suburban subdivision where our house was being built. There’s that similar feeling of excitement and wonder. That this work-in-progress will one day be real.
There are the incomplete walls, the cases for objets being built, a half-painted wall and a corner full of plaster dust that leads to a whirlwind of sneezes. One room is full of crates of all sizes, packed together so tightly, you can’t walk between them. A few crates include mannequins who are already partially dressed in vintage saris (it leads to less wear and tear, says the textile conservator).
In another room, paintings and photographs are already hung, but they are covered in craft paper to protect them from the light for just a few more weeks. Fortunately, there is something to see, a silver landau (or carriage) that shines not-so brightly, waiting for its daily polishing.
People are everywhere: the AGO’s own installation technicians, Maharaja team members, and even folks from the Victoria & Albert who have accompanied the work to make sure the installation process goes smoothly (some are here for a few days, others for a few weeks).
Often the work is prosaic – someone has to drill holes in the walls to hang the paintings or lift part of a picture frame ever so carefully out of a crate. But the levels are out, as are the measuring tapes, to make sure the lines are straight.
Welcome to a fairy tale world where perfection is a necessary part of the job description.
Piali Roy is a Toronto writer with a long-held interest in South Asian culture and history. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
shopAGO’s Maharaja Marketplace opens on November 17. From colourful spices to dazzling jewels and home accessories inspired by the palaces and kings of India, come and find an exciting and memorable souvenir for yourself – or a unique gift for someone special! Maharajah-related merchandise will be featured in a shop at the end of the Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courtsexhibit, as well as in the main gift shop at street level.
As with Schnabel’s two previous films, his third is a biographical ode to an accomplished person who meets an untimely death. In 1995 a massive stroke left 43-year-old Jean-Dominique Bauby, the stylish editor of French fashion magazine Elle, completely paralyzed. He dictated his memoir while in the hospital by blinking it out, letter by letter, from his single functioning eye. He died only 10 days after its publication.
Schnabel’s filmic interpretation of Bauby’s book received international critical acclaim from the moment it premiered at Cannes, where Schnabel won Best Director. The Diving Bell was also awarded Golden Globes for best picture and best director and received four Academy Award nominations.
Book Signing and Launch for Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection
Sunday, November 7 2010, 1–3 pm at shopAGO
shopAGO invites you to meet curators Gerald McMaster and Ingo Hessel, and other contributors to Inuit Modern as well as artists featured in the publication.
This collection situates modern Inuit art within a larger framework that reinterprets the Canadian Arctic. Essays by leading Canadian scholars in the field, including Ingo Hessel, Gerald McMaster, Robert McGhee, Christine Lalonde, Heather Igloliorte, Dorothy Eber and Bernadette Driscoll Engelstad, examine the social, political and cultural transformation through the dynamic lens of colonial influence and agency. Inuit Modern also features interviews with David Ruben Piqtoukun and Zacharias Kunuk.
What is the best way to market the Maharaja exhibition to the South Asian community in the GTA? That was the major question posed to advisory committee last week by the the marketing, public relations, and programming departments at the AGO.
So how many people can fit around the table?
The committee was peppered with questions, from where the billboards targeting the South Asian community should go, to what languages should be used for advertising. That question led to a rather energetic debate between some who proposed Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi as the key languages to others who felt it would be unfair to ignore Tamil or Bengali. We definitely proved that the South Asian community is also a group of communities!
Also asked: What would be a great tag-line to go with the exhibition? Something with a call-to-action. What’s an example? The one that got everyone in the room aha-ing was the AGO’s own ad campaign, the catchy “Gotta Go to the AGO” that ran during the opening of the Frank Gehry redesign.
After some silence – it was a tough question – the discussion revolved around the issue about how to excite folks within these groups to come to Maharaja if they are not regular gallery visitors. The AGO voices around the table recognize that minorities still don’t feel like the AGO is theirs. It’s one reason the advisory committee was convened.
So the question shifted – how important is it to a minority community to see themselves in a mainstream space? Pretty darned important is a paraphrase of the answer.
One suggestion was tapping into cultural pride. Would something like “India at the AGO” on a billboard in Brampton draw 905-ers downtown? Or would that alienate people with a Pakistani background? (Check out an earlier blog post: What makes Maharaja a Risky Business.)
What do you think? Tell us your ideas about attracting new audiences to the AGO’s upcoming Maharaja exhibition.
Piali Roy is a Toronto freelance writer with a long-held interest in South Asian culture and history. You can contact her at email@example.com.
The AGO is partnering with the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) to host Sunday afternoon concerts in the Sculpture Atrium from 1:30 to 2:15pm. This Sunday’s concert, on October 24, features pianist Matthew Li.
Matthew Li has performed across Canada as well as in the United States, Austria, China, and Hong Kong. He recently graduated with a Master’s of Music from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he was also an Associate Instructor of piano. He has studied with Emile Naoumoff, Arnaldo Cohen, Sara Davis Buechner, and Sheila Hardy. Matthew was the runner-up of the Jacobs School of Music Concerto Competition, the winner of the Johann Strauss Scholarship Competition in UBC, semi-finalist of the 2008 International Stepping Stone Competition, as well as the runner-up of the 2007 Canadian Music Competition.
In 2006, he was invited by the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra for a Christmas concert in China, where he performed Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Matthew was enrolled in various summer music academies, including the 2008 Mozarteum Sommerakademie in Salzburg, Austria, the Toronto Summer Music Festival, and the Morningside Music Bridge. He has performed in masterclasses under well-known pianists including Menahem Pressler, Robert Levin, Jerome Lowenthal, Anton Kuerti, Andre Laplante, Lee Kum Sing, and John Perry. Matthew is currently enrolled in the Artist Diploma Program at The Glenn Gould School under the studio of Marietta Orlov.
I’ve always said that the actual installation of works in an exhibition is the fun part! The name of the game is to stay flexible in the face of constant changes – be adaptable and be creative.
The goal of an installation is to make the art come alive and speak to the visitor. You can make a great artist look terrible or even better than ever thought possible, depending on how the work is installed.
In this exhibition, I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with the very talented 3D designer, Emma Reddington. She and I have been faced with the very interesting challenge of making large works of sculpture fit into awkward shaped galleries. Some pieces demand to be seen in the round, while others can be situated in proximity to a wall and have an astounding impact.
Therein lays the challenge – to make sure that there is room for both the art and the crowd. The sculpture needs to be safe and at the same time accessible – and it needs to look great!
For more information on The Shape of Anxiety: Henry Moore in the 1930s, click here.
Marlon Brando (1924–2004) is another movie figure who looms large in the psyche of Schnabel – from Brando’s early tour de force performances in such films as The Fugitive Kind and On the Waterfront, where themes of alienation and otherness are explored, to seminal character roles in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Here Schnabel chose to work with images of Brando on the set of the 1968 psychedelic cult classic Candy. “I love Marlon Brando. I loved him as an actor,” Schnabel explains. “I felt so much, such a connection to him. To watch him through his life and endure tragedies in his life, the light that shined out of this guy and the loneliness that engulfed him later.” In homage to the late actor, Schnabel bought a pair of Brando’s boxing gloves at auction, and hung them in his lead character’s hospital room in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Audio: Listen to Julian Schnabel discuss this work:
A lot rides on a title. How do museums like the AGO name their exhibitions? Sometimes the process can be long and complicated, and involve many players both inside and outside the institution. It can be a big challenge to capture the complex ideas of a show in just a few pithy words. Usually the exhibition team of interpretive planner, curator, public relations and marketing experts meet for an hour and toss around ideas. Then they meet again a week or so later and continue the discussion, followed by conversations with colleagues in other departments on what they think, until a fairly wide consensus is arrived at. Only to come back to the table, and narrow it down to the one title that represents all feelings and opinions.
With the Henry Moore exhibition the process was similar, with all but one feeling and theme for certain.
Anxiety is a key word that embodies so much of Moore’s work in the 1930s. We kept seeing it over and over again in our research. During the 1920s Moore still lived in the shadow of the horrors he experienced in combat during World War I. In the 30s he witnessed the mounting tensions provoked by the rise of Nazi Germany, and new developments in psychoanalysis. It really was a time of change, uncertainty, threat, and violence. As a result, when you look at Moore’s sculptures of that period – brutally distorted bodies, almost sci-fi-like – one can’t help but feel anxious.
For more information on The Shape of Anxiety: Henry Moore in the 1930s click here.