Today in the Usher Gallery, we saw our famous Joseph Banks portrait returned to us, following a lengthy loan to the Tate Britain. This giant portrait, which was created in 1771, required the utmost care as it was being rehung above the staircase in the Usher. After seeing the process for the very first time; I was amazed.
I took a couple of things away with me after witnessing the installation professionals at work. Firstly, I had absolutely no idea just how meticulous and accurate it would be hung. I jokingly said to a colleague whilst watching the installation process, that I thought mounting a TV on a wall was difficult. The Joseph Banks rehang took everything to a whole new level that I didn't even know existed.
Firstly, an intricate scaffolding arrangement was set up throughout that would allow the installation team to have a flat surface directly under where the Joseph Banks painting was to be hung. Upon simply seeing the scaffolding my mind almost melted with how complicated it was, and to see it provide a perfectly flat surface where originally there was nothing. That was really impressive stuff.
Secondly, the installation team themselves, they were fantastic. They were aware of just how important and expensive this painting is, but at no time did they appear to forget just what they were dealing with. They were delicate, thoughtful, strategic and calm throughout the enitre process. This wasn't the first time they'd done this particular job, but the shear price of the painting alone would be enough to send me into a nervous wreck. One wrong little move could cost us everything, yet they remained totally and completely headstrong and in control.
The team also had a very obvious respect for what they were doing too. Taking their time with the smallest of adjustments to make it absolutely perfect, even when the nature of the gallery itself seemed to fight them in their pursuit for perfection. One instance that sticks vividly to me is their efforts at levelling the painting. They used the ingenious and previously unheard of (to me) tactic of using pliers to squash the chainlinks hanging the portrait, thus extending them millimeters at a time. Given the size of the painting, which is taller than most adults, you wouldn't think that this method of alteration would have a noticable effect, but it absolutely did.
The last thing that really blew me away (and is one of the main reasons why I love history so much), is the painting itself. Not only is it a beautiful painting, but having been created in 1771, it's older than the United States of America. This fact alone is almost inconceivable. My love of history comes from my adoration of the idea that whilst in the presence of a historical object, who else was stood where I was stood throughout this item's lifespan? Could a King have been stood where I was? A famous historical figure? Maybe even personal heroes of mine today! An ancient Roman sword on display is likely to have been used by a Roman soldier, who may have been in a battle with that exact sword. These personal stories that every objects has it what intrigues me, and this painting is sure to have one fantastic story.
Before today I didn't even know the rehang was happening. In the space of a few hours, I've had so many of my perspectives changed that this is definitely one of the reasons why I love this job.
By Ben Staff, Marketing and Social Media Intern
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