Wari: A Behind the Scenes Perspective

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Wari: A Behind the Scenes Perspective

Amanda Mikolic, Curatorial Assistant for Medieval Art/Art of the Ancient Americas looks back on installation week for Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes to offer a behind the scenes look at bringing the first exhibition of Wari culture in North America to Cleveland. The exhibition is open through  Sunday, January 6, 2013.

Installation week of an exhibition is always the most exhilarating as well as stressful time of putting together a show.  In only two weeks we needed to install nearly 150 objects from all over the world.  For Wari we have one piece from Canada, 28 from Germany, 35 from Peru, 5 from Switzerland, and 78 from around the United States.  The loans from the US come from all over including, Boston, New York, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Fort Worth, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Princeton, Washington D.C., Providence, and San Francisco.

Wari Lender Map.jpg

It is the job of our registrar’s office to coordinate the shipment of all of these pieces to Cleveland and to make sure that they all arrive on time.  There is some finesse needed to scheduling all of this.  The shipments must be spread out over the installation period so that things run smoothly.  Since Wari is such a large show with so many international lenders it was very complicated to schedule.

Many of the objects are accompanied by couriers, whose job is to make sure that the objects reach their destination safely and are installed correctly.  For Wari we had couriers from Switzerland, Germany, and Peru as well as all over the United States including Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia.  Getting the opportunity to meet people from museums all over the world while installing the show is a real treat.  Every courier we had was incredibly impressed with the show and eager to see it finished. 

What makes installation so exciting is seeing the art for the first time.  Although I have been studying photographs of all these pieces for two years I have only seen a handful of them in person.  Opening the crates was much like opening gifts on Christmas morning, lots of surprises and excitement.  For example, I just didn’t realize how large and heave some of the urns were that are in the first room of the show.  It was unbelievable to see their size and feel their weight when they arrived.  Other objects that really surprised me were the metal plumes, I couldn’t believe how small they ended up being, I had pictured something bigger.  For the textiles the treat was to see just how detailed and fine the weaving was.  No matter how good the photo, seeing the object in person can really take your breath away.  I know that visitors will feel the same way when they see this incredible show.