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With the New Light Prize Exhibition at The Mercer Gallery in Harrogate, it feels like a good time for us to reflect on what went on behind the scenes as we endeavoured to ensure as smooth a transition between the two venues as possible.
Perhaps the first thing we discovered was that lists very quickly become your best friends. This is because you inevitably end up checking and then checking again to ensure the correct works arrive at the correct destination at the correct time. When the Prize Exhibition closed at the Bowes Museum, 64 artworks were ear-marked for The Mercer Gallery with the remaining 20 being collected by individuals. Each one had to be carefully packed and labelled to reflect this and all the details had to be clearly communicated to everyone involved. No mean feat when that included gallery teams, artists, couriers and buyers.
It is often, however, the unexpected which really tests everyone’s ingenuity. None of us, for example, envisaged the purchaser of two of the exhibition’s largest works turning up to collect them in a sports car. Try as we might, this was one problem we soon realised we were going to struggle to resolve when it became clear that, even with the roof down, there was no way those paintings were going to fit in! Suffice to say, they did eventually make it safely to their new home.
One of the undoubted pleasures of the process turned out to be working with the teams at The Bowes and The Mercer. The more we organised, the more it became clear that we needed their technical expertise to ensure that everything ran without a hitch. We also rapidly realised how fortunate we were at The Bowes in having the space to sort and group the works depending on what was happening to them – a rare luxury in smaller galleries – and to share practical tips. Who would have thought we could get so excited about The Bowes’s art work dividers: a very simple tool that allows you to stack and store numerous paintings safely if space is tight?
Another highlight was the chance to meet and chat to the artists again – many of whom we hadn’t seen since the Private View – as they dropped off or collected works. It was helpful to find out what they thought of the Prize Exhibition a few months in and to discuss any ideas they had for the future.
We could only truly relax, however, when The Mercer Gallery opened its doors for the first time and we were finally able to enjoy the fruits of all our labours and fully appreciate how the works looked in a new context and a new space. More of which in our next blog…
Many thanks to the exhibition teams at the Bowes Museum and the Mercer Art Gallery and to Arterium who ensured the safe transport of the works.