What you can learn from having artwork treated badly at the external exhibition

It was supposed to be “wonderful” and “fortunate” to have my artwork being exhibited at CEO Arts exhibition, held in Melbourne City. I was excited to be able to show my personal artwork created in VCE Studio Arts last year, as it has been my favourite artwork that I could be proud of. However, the whole thing turned out to be a heartbreaking experience for me.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent my artwork to the office on Victoria Parade (City) through my school. In a large box with multiple layers of bubble wrap, the artwork was fixed on the bottom and sides of the box with tape and cardboard weights that prevent the artwork from moving around. A foam board and the instruction for opening the box and handling artwork were placed on top of cardboard weights. The lid was put on the box tightly with “fragile” and “up” signs. I was still worried of the artwork as it was the first time I sent a large-scale physical artwork. The artwork was sent with a small easel that the artwork was going to be placed on.

When I visited the exhibition last Sunday, I found out that the artwork on the easel was located on the ground, at the corner of partitions. I was a bit shocked not only because it was the out of view for many audience, it was at the potential risk of being damaged by people accidentally kicked or knocked over. The label for artwork information was on the easel, about 10cm above the floor. An art teacher and a deputy principal from my school who were also there, suggested me to move the artwork to the stage (about 1-1.2m high) to prevent the possible damage on the artwork (see the image below).

IMG_0615

On Tuesday, I asked my host mother if she can go to City and collect my artwork because working hours on that Tuesday was the only time the collection of the artwork was allowed. It had been informed before the exhibition, on the document about the delivery and the collection of artwork. I felt sorry to ask my host mother to do it for me as it takes more than an hour to get there, and it should be my responsibility to bring my artwork back home.

The result was rather provoking. When the host mother asked the office staff for my artwork, they told her that the artwork was sent back to the school. I hadn’t been notified at all. On the next day I heard from my another art teacher that the notification came through to him in the late afternoon (after the collection time). I would have appreciated if they had informed me in prior to Tuesday that they were planning to send artworks back to school rather than following their initial timeline.

I wouldn’t have been feeling this devastated and frustrated if the artwork didn’t come back to me with this condition. The artwork was wrapped with bubble wrap, with another student’s artwork. From the surface of the bubble wrap, I could identify a number of elements broken off the base of the artwork. As I opened to take the another student’s artwork out (and to return it to the school so she doesn’t look for it), I found more severe damage on the artwork. About a quarter of all parts held on wooden sticks were squashed and torn off from the base. I don’t know how the artwork was delivered or packed, but it made me feel dreadful and miserable. I tried to make sure that the artwork was secure and no damage to be done when I sent it, but apparently the office staff didn’t.


  

  What I learnt from this experience is clear; I should have framed the artwork before hand, and I should have made sure how the artwork should be displayed and the way artwork is collected / delivered. I hadn’t framed it because I thought framing it would limit the angles where the audience can see the artwork from. But this experience made me convinced of the need of framing for the conservation of artwork. Although unexpected things, such as the having artwork presented on the ground and the change of collection method, went beyond my expectation, I could communicate about my requests with office staff (through the art teacher / school though). If I had their contact address, I should have sent emails like “my host mother will be going to collect artwork on Tuesday”.

There are times things don’t work out well, and you feel so distressed, but there is always something you can learn from it so you don’t make the same mistake….

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