Installation: The Second Hand

With The Second Hand: Art Reworked Over Time opening this week we asked Coralie Malissard from our MA Curating the Art Museum course to tell us about how it’s been going….

Its hard, staring in front of this empty Word document to know where to start. How to express in a few words just how much of a roller coaster these last 10 days were for all of us? I personally haven’t had the time to ponder over these fast paced, jam-packed days spent basically living in the gallery space. I’m still jittering because of the amount of caffeine and sugar I’ve ingested to keep me going. My limbs are still tingling due to all the emotions I’ve been through. Although we had all been preparing The Second Hand: Reworked Art Over Time for the last six months – and had spent much time scrupulously planning this installation week – none of us could fully conceptualise just how much of a ‘journey’ installation would be.

It all started when a van rolled into Somerset House on Friday 5th with the temporary structure for our film booth. What was, customarily, an overly female environment was somewhat jolted by a team of contractors who were busy drilling, hammering and sanding away. The galleries were then revamped over the weekend by a team of expert decorators. What a reassuring feeling to see that the wall colour we had chosen from a colour chart had come out wonderfully! As part of the installation team, it was great to see this ballet of art handlers, conservators, technicians, electricians and decorators I had helped choreograph.

Gainsborough hanging

On Monday 8th we recorded podcasts to go up on the website. From Tuesday onwards, we experienced the sheer excitement of seeing the works in the flesh once they had carefully been removed from their protective crates and polyethylene wrappings. It was Christmas all over again! The works were then carefully condition checked with the help of a raking light, binocular headband magnifiers and the conservators’ expert knowledge.

Kate Edmondson explains condition reports and conservation

Looking back, I salute the team of art handlers who expertly got on with their job while 12 pair of eyes looked over their every move. We were like anxious mothers looking over their children… Talking of parental emotions, we were beaming with pride when our posters went up on the railings around Somerset House; when our project unfolds in the space harmoniously and when the vinyl for our introductory panel was successfully peeled onto the wall. For me, the cherry on the cake was seeing our exhibition come to life thanks to John Johnson’s expert lighting advice. Witnessing these finishing touches washed away the more stressful or tiresome moments, like when we went through each wall label and catalogue page with hawk-eyed scrutiny.

The Second Hand posters outside Somerset House

All in all, this was for me one of the most exciting and challenging projects I’ve worked on. There were some tense, stressful and teary moments, but the feeling of utter pure joy I got from working with incredible works of art made it all worth it. Even now, the works continue to unravel more meanings and surprises, more juxtapositions, correspondences and dialogues between themselves. And now, with the Private view just one day away, we can finally sit, back, relax and enjoy it.

 ———————————————————-

The Second Hand: Art Reworked Over Time is the collective, culminating project of the MA Curating the Art Museum course at the Courtauld Institute of Art. This year, the 12 students were challenged to respond to The Courtauld Gallery’s summer showcase Unfinished… Works from the Courtauld Gallery

The Second Hand: Art Reworked Over Time is at The Courtauld Gallery 18 June – 19 July 2015

Introducing: The Second Hand

The Second Hand: Reworked Art Over Time is the collective, culminating project of the MA Curating the Art Museum course at the Courtauld Institute of Art. This year, the 12 students were challenged to respond to The Courtauld Gallery’s summer showcase Unfinished… Works from the Courtauld Gallery running concurrently and adjacent to our own exhibition.  Equipped with special access to The Courtauld collection and the Arts Council Collection, the MA Curating team has responded with The Second Hand, which is running at The Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, London, between 18 June and 19 July 2015.

 ———————————————————-

It all started with a ripped drawing. A mysterious, jutting tear at the top right corner of Wyndham Lewis’ 1920 drawing of Ezra Pound effectively decapitates the seated figure and acts as a boundary between Lewis’ drawing and that of another hand. It was in this torn, incomplete state that 37 years later, and after Lewis’ death, fellow artist and close friend Michael Ayrton found this work and took it upon himself to reunite the body with a new head. He “re-finished” it, if you like. Their mutual admiration of each other’s work gave Ayrton the confidence to replicate Lewis’ stylistic draughtsmanship and return the drawing to a state of completion once more: an act which raises questions of authorship, authority, homage, collaboration, and even forced artistic interventions. Why did Ayrton feel the need to intervene and somehow salvage the damaged sketch? What right did he have to add his own drawing of Pound’s head?  What would Lewis have thought of this intervention, had he been alive to witness the result?

Ezra Pound by Wyndham Lewis

Thanks to the ripped drawing, a number of questions and ideas began to germinate in our minds. Is this type of “re-finishing” a common artistic practice? How does it manifest in art history? What are the reasons behind one artist physically altering, changing, or adding to the work of another? What are the different ways in which artists “re-work” existing art? They lead us to explore both the Courtauld and Art Council collections with a more focused intent: to discover works of art that had, at some point, been touched by more than one artist’s hand. And so began our search for the ‘Second Hand’.

Visit the blog of the MA Curating students to read more

Image credit:
Wyndham Lewis; repaired and reworked by Michael Ayrton,
EZRA POUND, 1920 (reworked 1957). Pencil, 35.5 x 51 cm.
The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust:
On long-term loan to The Courtauld Gallery, London ©
The Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust/ The Bridgman Art Library