Bringing ‘The Art of Bedlam’ to Bethlem
No matter the scope, putting on an exhibition requires months (years in some occasions) of arduous preparation and team effort. ‘The Art of Bedlam: Richard Dadd’ is a relatively small show but a significant one for the museum since we moved to our new building earlier in the year. The exhibition displays 22 artworks, gathered from eight different collections nationwide, that include: the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Wellcome Library, the British Museum, Harris Museum and Gallery, Winchester College, the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh, a private collection and of course our own Richard Dadd’s artwork and records.
Bringing artworks from other collections is not an easy task and it is something we couldn’t have done in the past due to limitations of space in our previous premises. For the first time our museum applied for the Arts Council’s Government Indemnity Scheme, without which this exhibition could not have been possible. With the loan also came a few changes in terms of security and we even undertook the challenging task of commissioning an exclusive alarm for our temporary exhibition space.
The exhibition toured to us from the Watts Gallery in Guilford, Surrey where it was on display for five months from June 2015. The show ended on 1 November and arrived to us on Tuesday 3 November, transported by Crown and accompanied by the Watts Gallery’s curatorial assistant who kindly acted as courier for most of the loans. A courier from the V&A and another from the Wellcome Library also joined us to oversee the installation of the artworks as Bethlem is a new venue for these institutions. The paperwork and email exchange behind the making of an exhibition can be vast and comprises letters of request to lenders, letters of approval, facilities reports, security supplements, loan agreement forms and copyright forms, all of which is prepared in anticipation of the arrival of the artworks. The day of the installation, object entry forms are used to log all artwork entering the museum’s collection and temporarily, on this occasion of course. Additionally, our conservator condition checked all the artworks in order to record the state in which they arrived to our premises and so we can ensure they return to the lenders in optimal conditions when the loans come to an end.
The exhibition opened successfully on Saturday 7 November and it will be with us until the 6 February, when all the paintings will go back to their respective collections nationwide. Even though the exhibition is now on, we haven’t had a chance to relax just yet as we have been busy welcoming press and promoting the show. Perhaps we won’t be able to rest, not until February, but we’ll have another exciting exhibition coming up then.