In today's post, FIDM Museum Registrar Meghan Grossman Hansen describes the process of preparing objects for transport to exhibitions at other institutions. FIDM Museum has an active loan program, and we often have 1 or more objects on exhibit at museums near or far. Beginning April 28, see a tuxedo worn by Fred Astaire in Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion at the RISD Museum in Providence, Rhode Island.
We are always excited to see the FIDM Museum collection travel. Most recently, we sent Fred Astaire's tuxedo to join many other dapper gentlemen in Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion, an exhibition at the RISD Museum (April 28 - August 18, 2013). Featuring more than 200 objects, this exhibit traces the history and persona of the dandy, with a focus on well-known fashionable men.
Fred Astaire was very particular about his wardrobe, with strong preferences about cuffs, jacket length, stripe width, and other minute details. He once claimed that he took each new suit to the tailor "at least half a dozen times."1 For Artist/Rebel/Dandy, we loaned the RISD Museum a 1930s tuxedo, waistcoat, and bow tie worn by Astaire. The wool crepe tuxedo was made by Anderson & Sheppard Ltd., a Savile Row tailor still in existence today.
Fred Astaire’s tuxedo on exhibit at the RISD Museum, loan courtesy of the FIDM Museum, City of Los Angeles, Department of Recreation and Parks (L88.1.31AB). Photograph by Erik Gould, courtesy of the RISD Museum.
As you can imagine, getting Fred Astaire's tuxedo ready for a trip from Los Angeles to Providence, RI was an involved project. The first step was creating a mount for the tuxedo. Carolyn Jamerson, FIDM Museum’s mount-maker, made an outstanding custom mount. To learn more about how Carolyn designs and fabricates mounts, read this blog post.
A custom crate was built so the tuxedo could travel standing upright, fully dressed. Here we show the mannequin as it was positioned inside the crate. The sturdy crate was designed and fabricated by US Art. After Carolyn built the mount, US Art’s crate specialist paid us a visit, taking measurements of the mount, and sketching out a plan for the crate. Once completed, the crate was delivered to the FIDM Museum, and packed on-site with the assistance of two art handlers from US Art. Carved Ethafoam supports the exact shape of the mannequin, and archival tissue protects the tuxedo from all points of contact with the crate’s interior. The interior of the crate is lined in Tyvek, and the Ethafoam supports are covered with Volara, a pliable archival foam.
In this image, RISD Museum staff move the crated tuxedo into their building, making sure it remained upright. The mannequin was kept in its crate for 24 hours to acclimatize to its new environment. After acclimatizing, Fred Astaire's tuxedo was carefully removed from the crate, and installed directly on the exhibition platform. Photograph by Tara Emsley, courtesy of the RISD Museum.
Fred Astaire's tuxedo as it appears in Artist/Rebel/Dandy. Fred Astaire’s tuxedo (center), shown with Roy Sambourne's suit tailored by Tom Brown Tailors (left), and Peter Rauch's suit tailored by Leonard Logsdail (right). Photograph by Erik Gould, courtesy of the RISD Museum.
After Artist/Rebel/Dandy closes on August 18, this process will be completed in reverse. The RISD Museum staff will return Fred Astaire's tuxedo to its crate, and it will be driven back across the country to its home at the FIDM Museum. Meanwhile, we'll be working on another loan project, one that involves dozens of objects, and international shipping. We'll share more details on this project soon.
1 Hublar, Richard. "Flashback Friday: The Astute Astaire." GQ (August 1957).