The Making of an Exhibition

The installation team puts protective plexiglass over a scroll.

When you visit one of our exhibitions, it’s clear that our curatorial staff puts in a lot of time, attention and care into what our visitors see. But did you know what it takes to actually put one of these exhibitions together?

On July 8, our newest exhibition 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection opens to the public (members get a preview reception!), but our curatorial staff has been working for over two years to make this the best show it can be. It’s a balancing act of pulling delicate pieces out of storage, moving some of our favorites from the permanent galleries, and making hard choices about what best showcases our wide-ranging collection. Now, all this hard work is paying off as they put the final touches on this fantastic show.

Yam mask, New Guinea, mid 20th c.

For such a diverse array of works, it might surprise visitors how much some of them have in common. The exhibition’s five themes pair unusual works that are not often displayed together, like our striking yam mask from New Guinea alongside imperial calligraphy. Wisdom and Longevity reveals the continuity of tradition and respect for ancestors; The Art of Daily Life brings together objects that were used in everyday environments but were imbued with care and craftsmanship; Status and Adornment  demonstrates the artistry in personal objects and the function of art as a social signifier; The Beauty of Nature reveals the natural world as a source of inspiration to artists and their patrons; and Religion and Faith shares the expression of beliefs through the physical manifestation of art.  These five themes offer an introduction to the collection for first-time visitors and a chance to revisit favorite works for those more familiar with the collection.

Now our curatorial department is now on the home stretch– actually installing the exhibition! Since our Changing Exhibition galleries (where our major shows are held) are a large part of our total gallery space, we try to keep installation time to a minimum. As a result, in a single month one exhibition comes down and another goes up with a new coat of paint, new cases, and a new gallery layout. The experience has been a crash course for our Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Interns to learn the ins and outs of installing an exhibition. 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection is a rare opportunity to see some of the best pieces in the Pacific Asia Museum collection, so come check it out once it’s open on July 8, and let us know which piece is your favorite! ~CM

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