A Brickell Sandwich
Follow the journey of an artwork, from the bottom of the country to The Dowse.
In preparation for our upcoming exhibition, His Own Steam: A Barry Brickell Survey, last week Greg and I loaded the van, boarded the ferry and headed to Invercargill to pick up the largest of the works in the show, the Waitaki Refrigerating Company Mural. Two metres high and nearly five metres long, the mural is part of the collection of meat processing company, Alliance Group.
It is always a challenge when moving artworks, particularly when it involves shifting a large ceramic mural from one end of the country to the other. The mural had sat in situ since the 1990s when it had been shifted to its current location in central Invercargill. As the work had been moved a while ago, no one remembered quite how it had been installed – not even Barry himself, who was commissioned to make the mural in 1981. No one knew how much it weighed or even the sections that it would divide into, if any at all.
Many watery coffees and two days after leaving Wellington, we arrived at the third floor offices in central Invercargill. After a detailed condition report of the work, and discussion to plan each movement, we built appropriate blocks to support the structure so that we could lay it face down and investigate how the work had been constructed. A quick round up of six of the office staff helped us gently lower the work to the ground and we began to methodically separate the panels, recording the relevant details that will help us install the mural at The Dowse in time for the opening in early May.
After the mural was successfully separated into as many smaller components as possible, we planned the pack for the van. Although the pieces separated into the sections that we had desired, the relief worked into the ceramic panels extruded higher than expected. By laying the mural panels on sheets of plywood, secured and covered in archival foam and plastic (celair and tyvek), we custom built sides to size, building a crate around the object. Creating a layering system that supported itself and the collective weight of the mural. This system was later referred to by Greg as ‘The Brickell Sandwich’.
Along with a number of other smaller collections in Dunedin (of easily managed ceramic works, but just as important none the less), we slowly made our way back up the South Island and back to Lower Hutt, safely delivering the mural to The Dowse Art Museum.
Jay Hutchinson, Preparator