Technical Interlude pt.1: John Crossley, Head Technician
The nature my role takes me in to the galleries perhaps more than any other member of the permanent staff at Compton Verney. I check all of the lighting to ensure the exhibits are displayed to their full potential and use the time before opening to perform a condition check on the artworks. I also see to any maintenance tasks that require attention such as repairing the oak floorboards on the ground floor.
The main focus of my work is associated with the planning of the temporary exhibition programme. This includes the fabrication of plinths for 3D artworks – like the fireplace currently supporting the Andrew Wicks vessels in the Arts and Crafts House exhibition (pics below immediateley after I finished fabrication and once the installation in the space was complete). I also install audio-visual projections such as the short film currently on show in the Harts Silversmiths exhibition. I work closely with the Exhibitions Manager and the Curators at Compton Verney to arrange and manage the installation of temporary exhibitions, liaise with builders and painters, hire technical art handlers and oversee contractors working on-site.
Compton Verney’s temporary exhibition installations are the most thrilling (and often nerve-racking) part of my role since we aim to get the shows hung and open to the public as soon as possible. There are fantastic challenges, such as hanging a Van Dyck with a courier from The Royal Collection watching your every move. Some I’d rather forget, like the time paintings from Iceland due to form part of the Volcano exhibition in 2010 were bumped off the flight in favour of several crates of Haddock, Halibut and Herring. The catch of the day seemingly more note-worthy than any pre-arranged cultural exports!
Engaging with partners from prestigious institutions and working closely with a huge range of traditional and contemporary artwork from all over the world makes the time pressures associated with installing such a varied programme worthwhile. I am fortunate to get an intimate look at the works as they are unpacked and seeing a show develop from design through to realisation is always highly rewarding.
Next time, I’ll talk a bit more about some of my regular duties looking specifically at the rolling programme of conservation cleaning of the permanent collections at Compton Verney.