Posts Tagged ‘India royal court art’

The Story of an Art Exhibition

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2009 at 8:50 pm

How does an art exhibition come together? What is the timeline, the journey, of each work that you see at an art exhibit? Unless the art museum has an extensive collection of works in storage (many do, but those museums with smaller budgets may have a hard time keeping up the extensive costs of storage) the museum will have to go on a world treasure hunt of artworks to put on loan for the art exhibition.

The Guardian recently published an article where curators reveal the art world’s secret merry-go-round when it comes to putting together an art exhibition. 

This article shadows the upcoming October 2009 exhibition curated by Anna Jackson (Head of the Asian Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum London) entitled “Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts.” 



Procession of Raja Ram Singh II of Kota and his son at Kota

The idea for the exhibition was introduced more than two years ago and set off to India in February 2008 to investigate the royal collections.

Most of the work involves negotiating, as no real money transactions are made; instead it requires a lot of trust, convincing, and paperwork. Essentially this means convincing the person, institution, and collection owners of a certain work of art the benefits of having an artwork on loan at an exhibition. Typically the argument is that to expose an artwork helps to identify works of art, put them in context, see the significance of the artist’s craft as a cultural product, and that in the future if you lend, you may also be a borrower from the museum.

It seems like Anna Jackson’s visit to India was a unique one: “As word of the visit spread, she and a colleague gained access to previously unknown collections and made several trips, viewing hundreds of pieces, to select the final 50 – thrones, jewel-encrusted swords, even a Rolls-Royce ordered by the Crown Prince of Mewar in 1927.”

Before transportation, condition reports have to be made locally to ensure the artworks don’t undergo any significant changes during transportation and exhibition. 

Then, the museum has to deal with transport and travel of these precious items coming sometimes from all over the world (not just India) since the royal collections could be in the hands of the India diaspora as well. For instance, the  “Patiala necklace, a ceremonial item commissioned by the Maharaja of Patalia in 1928 from the French jewellers Cartier, is housed in a high-security vault. Originally containing 2,930 diamonds (including the infamous, golf-ball size, yellow De Beers diamond), the necklace has been stolen, smuggled, sold and restored, long before it was ever entrusted to the V&A”


Patiala Necklace

Patiala Necklace


The global art transport is left to services like Crozier Fine Arts, ARTEX, and Crown Fine Arts



The increase in these ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions is largely due to the international and global art scene. Individuals and collections worldwide are increasingly loaning their works to museums, plus technological improvements in temperature controlled trucks and improved crating have made transport more manageable and accessible to these borrowers and receivers of artworks.  

However, in the increasingly competitive world, the museum has to always try and outdo its last show, and so reaching from the far ends of the world for a fantastic exhibition puts a lot of pressure and work on the art curator. As Crozier puts it, this exhibition industry is largely based on “who’s got what and wants what” – knowing this can be a very important asset to facilitate the organization of mind-blowing art exhibits.

I can’t wait for October to come along and see all this hard work on display!