It is officially fall. Halloween decorations are in the store, there is a faint whiff of pumpkin spice in the air everywhere you go, and the country is deep into another college football season. As a diehard LSU Tiger fan, I am in heaven. One new addition to this college football season is the College Football Playoff which has replaced the BCS. It’s hard to watch television without seeing advertisements about it. I particularly enjoy the commercial that comically references each team’s efforts to be “in”. (Click here to see the commercial, if you’re not familiar with it already.) This question of “Who’s In?” got me thinking about a particularly epic project that has been a large part of my life for over a year: our current exhibition, State of the Art.
As soon as we began discussing actual artists and specific works as a staff, we quickly started to understand just how many different people and departments within the Museum this exhibition process would touch. We were talking about types of installation projects we had never before attempted. I have fond memories of our first discussions with staff about the installation of Jimmy Kuehnle’s AIS on the pond, Dan Steinhilber’s Reflecting Room covered in metallic Mylar film, and Jonathan Schipper’s Slow Room which slowly pulls all of its contents to destruction. These ideas weren’t met by looks of terror exactly… more like looks of determination. I’ve never felt luckier to work with people who are so innovative and patient. For every bump that we encountered in the road, our staff always came running with a solution. They were in.
This same sentiment applies to all of the contractors who worked on the gallery construction. There were very few days when I didn’t have a change for them when I came down to the galleries. I began to associate my entrance into the gallery with a certain facial expression—anxiety mixed with a hair of amusement. I am lucky again that there was never a challenge that they didn’t address head-on. My favorite moments were when I could actually stop them and show them the results of their work. Adam Belt’s Through the Looking Glass is a great example. The work not only had to be mounted inside a false wall, but it also had to be sheet-rocked and painted around. Watching their reactions when we turned it on for the first time was priceless. They were in.
As soon as artworks began to be installed within the view of our guests, there was a barrage of questions. I had several conversations with guests on Walker Landing about Jimmy’s AIS. Even some of our contractors on the way back and forth from their work in the galleries were stopped by guests seeking an explanation, and they always happily obliged. The installation of Kim Dickey’s Mille-fleur on the South Lawn attracted several onlookers who were fascinated by the artist’s intricate process of attaching dozens of tiny ceramic flowers. Then, there is Gabriel Dawe’s Plexus No. 27 in the stairwell of our North Exhibition Gallery. Every time I walk through that space the back wall is lined with guests gazing up at this colorful fiber masterpiece. Our security staff has even observed several guests lying in the middle of the floor to look at it—which, I might add, is not recommended. They were in.
Lastly, there was the exhibition opening. It gave me immeasurable joy to see so many people captured by something that I and so many other people had put our hearts into. The galleries are always full of strangers striking up discussions with other strangers about what they are seeing, and that to me is the point of this exhibition. State of the Art may not be the College Football Playoff, but there is one definite similarity. We are all in, and we want you to be “in” too.