In today's post, Associate Curator Christina Johnson takes a fond last look at Modern Love. Filled with evocative images, this post offers Christina's visual perspective on the deinstallation of this exhibition. As she describes, removing labels, undressing mannequins, and returning garments to their boxes and crates is a bittersweet process.
It’s probably obvious to say that planning an outstanding exhibition is a whole lot of work. Devising and revising the object list, researching, planning publicity and public programs, securing loans, and undertaking the myriad tasks associated with shipping an exhibition can literally require years of work before the opening night party. A passion for the subject and personal commitment to completing the project in the most exceptional way possible is vital for creating an exhibition that has scholarly substance and affords opportunities for many visitors to connect with the objects. Maybe this is why it’s very easy for curators to become emotionally attached to our exhibitions! Modern Love, shown at the Bendigo Art Gallery in Bendigo, Australia, was planned in about a year and a half, which is a very short time frame compared to most of the FIDM Museum’s curatorial exhibitions. But even so, we still managed to fall in love with it!
FIDM Museum Collections Manager Carolyn Jamerson and I recently traveled to Bendigo to de-install the exhibition. We had one day to move all of the mannequins and accessories out of their cases (we worked with their amazing art handlers!) and into a storage room. Over the course of seven days, we systematically condition-reported the objects, inventoried them, and packed them into their custom boxes before loading them into the crates.
It’s always an odd experience to dismantle something you’ve worked so hard on. To make the materiality of all that work just disappear. It’s things like: seeing the large Modern Love banner on the side of the Gallery each day on our way to work until it suddenly vanishes to make room for the next exhibition’s signage; the text panels that we worked so hard to write and edit and place perfectly symmetrically on their metal stands piled up in the corner; or a crowd of naked mannequins jumbled together. As we de-installed the exhibition, I decided to take photos of views that resonated with me emotionally, as a curator. They are a mix of bittersweet, funny, and proud moments, among other feelings. In the end, you have to let it go and move on to the next project. It makes me glad to know that the FIDM Museum team brought beauty, joy, and insight to everyone who visited Modern Love.