As the digital media interpretive media fellow at the de Young and the Legion of Honor, my primary role is to digitally document and interpret the yearlong project The Salon Doré: The Conservation of a Period Room, currently underway at the Legion of Honor.
Consisting of approximately 250 artworks, Rembrandt’s Century presents a diverse picture of the art and personalities that defined the Dutch Golden Age. Drawn entirely from the Museums’ permanent collection of works on paper in the renowned Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, this exhibition required months of preparation. Curators, conservators, and art technicians worked together to frame—both literally and figuratively—this important selection of masterworks.
Objects are fussy. They’re susceptible to humidity, light levels, vibrations, and any number of other dangers, both large (floods) and small (mice). And whether it’s a tiny tea cup or a four-ton bronze statue, each object also has its own idiosyncrasies. Wood, for example, doesn’t get along with water, and paper can’t stand light. A museum is carefully designed, in part, to control all these factors and to give objects the secure and stable home they deserve. But what happens when an object needs to travel outside the museum’s walls?
The permanent collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco number over 100,000 objects, and only a percentage are on view. However, many of these treasured artworks can be viewed in exhibitions at other institutions throughout the world at any given time. When art objects are loaned in this way, they often travel for long periods of time, which is why it’s so important for our conservators to carefully prepare objects for their extended journeys. Such was the case when the Cleveland Museum of Art requested to borrow an ancient turban from the Nasca culture of Peru, featured in the exhibition Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes that opened last week.
This weekend marks your last chance to experience the special exhibition Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 , on view at the de Young until June 3. As book designer and guest blogger Martin Venezky aptly notes, the catalogue represents a lasting impression of an otherwise temporary exhibition. Today, Venezky shares with us the process behind the creation of this unique publication.
The catalogue for the special exhibition Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 provides a nice case study into the inner workings of a book design. The book itself is deceptively simple. It contains reproductions of sixty-eight photographs from the exhibition, an essay, an interview, locations and credits, a foreword, and a set of additional images—some historical, some personal, and some working contact sheets. But beneath the seemingly placid surface there were hundreds of options to consider and decisions to make.
William Morris, champion of the Aesthetic Movement, said of interior design, “Whatever you have in your rooms, think first of the walls.” Wallpaper was a defining decorative motif in the homes of the Victorian avant-garde and bourgeoisie alike. In keeping with this fashion, the special exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900
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