Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The shipping news

Many years ago one of the paintings in our collection was returned from a touring exhibition. When the crate arrived it was so big (and it only contained a medium sized work on paper) it had to be left in the middle of the living room. The crate was so heavy the two of us could only just lay it flat and then, because the screws were mangled, we couldn’t open it. Like in some sit-com, the crate was now too heavy for us to lift and occupied the entire living room floor. It took seven days to get the art museum responsible to send someone to remove the work and take the crate away. In our experience over-sized museum crates have restricted the ability to tour work as much as made it safe and possible. Ok, they need to protect the work, but at what cost? It is fair to say that some crated large multi part works have been transformed into shipments that are too big for smaller galleries to afford. Unfortunately crating doesn’t seem to have a hierarchy with works of low value often getting the same expensive crating that is afforded to the most precious.

That’s why we both laughed aloud during Charlie Kaufman’s movie Synecdoche, New York. Caden’s wife, Catherine Keener is a painter of miniatures (you view her work through magnifying glasses when it is on show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York or her dealer gallery in Berlin) who has miniature museum shipping crates built for her postage-stamp sized works. Kaufman is a funny guy. Maybe he’s an art collector too.

The American artist Richard Artschwager found an ingenious solution to the crate challenge by making the crates the subject of his work. Suggestive shapes indicated what kind of art work might have been inside, had any been created. Then there was Hany Armanious. who used this crates as stands to display the works they had previously contained in an exhibition with Michael Lett at the Basel Art Fair. We also remember in the early nineties, when Julian Dashper was using coloured transparencies as art works that could easily be taken overseas, he called the yellow plastic boxes they came in after processing their crates. He’s a funny guy too.

Images: From the top, Catherine Keener at work on her miniatures pre crating, Richard Artschwager sculpture Crate, Julian Dashper crate, Hany Armanious Turns In Arabba