a trip to the circus

posted on 17 Sep 2012 15:32 by Elena Pinto Simon
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On the evening of September 12th, in the midst of the major install operation for Circus and the City, New York, 1793-2010, the Gallery staff took time to offer a warm and insightful installation workshop for current BGC students.


We gathered in the lobby of the gallery space, filled with crates, posters, and all the trappings of an exhibition-in-progress, and watched with enormous fascination as the Gallery team , led by our Director, Susan Weber, Chief Curator Nina Stritzler-Levine, exhibition curator Matt Wittmann, Exhibition Designer Ian Sullivan, Registrar Eric Edler, Art Director Laura Grey, and some of the BGC art handlers,walked us through a behind-the-scenes look at putting together this ambitious project, which has been several years in research and preparation. The show opens September 20th.


Susan Weber talked about the project’s inception, which came after a visit with the staff of the Shelburne Museum, who showed her their collection of circus objects. That put the idea of a look at the American Circus into motion. Nina Stritzler set out the whole exhibition process for us, step by step, as she talked about curatorial practice for an exhibition of this scale, starting from assembling the object list through design and final execution. Matt Wittmann shared some of the stories and challenges of hunting down some of the pieces we got, and some that got away, and also spent some time talking about the issues involved in coming to a final check list of the objects (there will be over 220 in the exhibition). Ian Sullivan, Eric Edler, and Laura Grey talked about everything from color choices – the lobby walls will make us feel we are entering a circus tent — to the roles of each of the Gallery staff in the collaboration process, and the artisanal approach we take in mounting all our exhibitions.

Susan Weber spoke about bringing exhibitions into our lovely townhouses, reminding us that “…we always have to think about space and scale, and what will fit into this intimate setting”. Ian Sullivan noted how carefully he looks at the objects themselves for ideas about how to set them for an exhibition, and Laura Grey similarly observed that “ sometimes the smallest detail can spark an idea for a graphic” – whether it be for a display card or a visual theme for a whole room.


Several objects were unpacked, unwrapped, and put into place, as we discussed issues about lighting, preservation, shipping and storage issues – we had some insights into the full process from the design box projection of what the exhibition would look like to thinking about the contract and legal issues.
It was a lively evening, informative, useful, practical and engaging – and it kicks off what will be a series of such installation workshops for our students going forward.

Circus and the City opens next week and runs until February in our Main Gallery ….but our sneak preview, aimed at students who are themselves training to do exactly this kind of work , as curators and researchers, showed us the ’show behind the show’ – before the curtain goes up. A night at the circus that we will all remember – thank you, BGC Gallery Staff!