October 2013

The ‘Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia’ Exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA), opened on the 14th September, and celebrates the artistic heritage of East Anglia from antiquity through to the present day. This ambitious project includes over 270 Masterpieces, 49 of which are lent from NMAS collections and constitute over a sixth of the entire exhibition. This may well be the largest loan to a single institution since the birth of NMAS!

Supporting the project at this level has been challenging and required detailed communication and co-ordination between many different disciplines including Conservators, Technicians, Curators, Registrars and Co-ordinators etc. over many months. As well as the practical and logistical work undertaken, detailed documentation involving conditions of loan agreements, insurance values, schedules etc is a significant and time consuming part of the loans process. At crucial periods, Conservation liaised with the SCVA collections management team on an almost daily basis!

The collections came from across the museums service including: Norwich Castle, Bridewell, Gressenhall and Time & Tide Museums. The range of objects was wide and varied , from the Happisburgh flint hand axe, Norwich shawls, Cotman watercolours to a gold torc, an architectural model and Medieval stained glass and many others. The conservation work not only included initial assessments, remedial work, packing and condition reports, but also working with the Design & Technical team to ensure works on paper and paintings were framed and safe for transport. Detailed dialogues with SCVA covered methods of object mounting, conditions of display and associated costs. These all had to be negotiated and agreed well in advance. A specialist art handling company, Constantine, was appointed, to produce crates for transport, particularly for two large objects including the Melton Constable Hall model from Gressenhall, and an oversize painting by Michael Andrews, see images.

Image 61

The Melton Constable Hall Model being put in a bespoke Crate ready for transport

Image 62

The painting ‘Lord Mayor’s Reception’ being secured on the vehicle ready for transport

Over two weeks during installation, the Conservation team worked in conjunction with the SCVA team to ensure the safe display of our collections. The exhibition, on until February 24th 2014, opened with over 600 guests attending, and a large contingent being from NMAS! It is an inspiration to see our Masterpieces in the good company of so many others in the region and well worth a visit.

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