I’m starting to really love Mondays, when Brighton Museum is closed to the public and much quieter than normal. There’s something magic about the atmosphere of a large museum or gallery space when it’s empty. There are still staff around obviously, it’s just nobody wanders the floors except security, so it has this clichéd dusty, peaceful, timeless vibe. Anyway, two or three weeks ago, I was here for a planning meeting that got postponed. I was about to leave, when Program Manager Helen Grundy took pity on me and spent a few minutes showing me some early prep for the (very high profile) upcoming Jeff Koons exhibition.
The Jeff Koons doesn’t open until May 11 but planning has been going on for many months: one of the most dizzying aspects of museum and gallery life is how far ahead these teams start organising each project – I’ve already sat in meetings where events and exhibitions scheduled for 2015/16 are being discussed.
At first glance an exhibition like the Jeff Koons might seem straightforward: a handful of individual works by one single artist. But he’s such a world-renowned name and these aren’t simple portraits, they’re complex installation pieces, so it quickly becomes a massive exercise in co-ordination. Crucially for Brighton Museum, one of the pieces will hang from the ceiling, so on this particular Monday morning, a crew was here moving all the displays carefully to one side, in order to set up a full size scaffold platform. From there, they were testing out the eaves and inserting a brand new horizontal joist, to enable the building to safely carry the load.
I’ve never given much thought to the transporting of large art pieces before but it’s like paradise for an Ikea-fetishist, or the best Lego ever. I’ll try to watch the pieces arrive and get photos (no promises though, they may not let me in).
Sometimes when major installation works arrive, they’re actually flat-packed and re-assembled on arrival, either by a team attached to the artist, who’ll travel with the work, or by a team of experts from the host gallery, who follow detailed written instructions. I can’t wait to see this.
The next day, I came back and sat in on a meeting with The Koons Collective – a kind of Baker Street Irregulars for Brighton Museum; they’re a team of student volunteers, recruited from previous museum projects. Facilitated by freelancer Lindsey Smith, Brighton Museum is challenging them to develop their own ideas for merchandise lines – taking specific inspiration from the Jeff Koons works that’ll be displayed here – to see if they can turn a profit in the museum shop.
Now this was a fascinating meeting: the Collective was presenting their ideas. Like business execs with a massive flipchart, they proposed three merchandise routes for shop products and I’m not giving away what they’ve come up with (I promised I wouldn’t) but all the ideas are flippin fantastic. At least one of the ideas deserves to make the project a fortune.
There was a great moment when Buying & Merchandise Manager Nicki’s eyes lit up: suddenly she was no longer just helping out with a young peoples’ project, instead genuinely excited about the sale possibilities. On the evidence of this meeting, the Koons Collective brings exactly the right energy and creative, out-of-the-box thinking to a major exhibition. I’ll interview them during one of their workshop days in the next week or two – and as soon as I’m allowed, I’ll tell you more about what they’ll be selling. Anyway, you’ll probably be able to grab some of it within a few weeks.
Chris T-T, Blogger in Residence