Opening night and the front of house debrief and prep for the Private view introduced by Dr Ellen Mcadam the Director of the Museum and Art Gallery and the High Sheriff of the West Midlands 2017 John Hudson OBE DL.
Before the speeches there was much networking and chatting to do. It seemed that the star of the show was Lara Ratnaraja’s Mother who had been excited about the event since Lara invited her as her +1. At every turn she was posing with another guest.
When we launched the exhibition Dr Mcadam gave a warm welcome to the Shrieval gathering and the growing positive relationship between the West Midlands Shrievalty and the the Museum Trust as they both have historic value to the city and region. She was also vey happy to encourage the purchasing of prints from the show as all proceeds will go to supporting the Museum Trust. John Hudson gave a very warm welcome to the assembled audience and a brief insight into the role of the shrievalty in England and in the West Midlands. He pointed out that he was surprised to meet someone as well turned out as himself in black and silver. He was of course referring to Phil Hawkins from Hodge Hill who has a portrait in the exhibition as a worthy winner of the Bromford Estate local heroes.
We concluded with an acknowledgment that there had been another historic event the previous week – the election of the first ever Metro Mayor for the West Midlands – Mr Andy Street CBE – and that Mayor Street had made the time to attend the opening and come see his portrait. So we all joined him and went through the curtains to Gallery 16.
Pictures were being sold with all proceeds being donated to the Birmingham Museums Trust.
There waere not many opportunities for visitors to get back from the walls to see the portraits in their ordered lines, however groupings gathered around pictures to cast judgement -all very positive. To see the portraits click the gallery below or actually go to Gallery 16 in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
May 10 th arrives and the 30 Printed Portraits will be revealed to all and those who feature on the walls of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
In the morning I was attending to final details including briefing the wonderful front of house team and remaking the nameplates with larger type and a Shrieval coat of arms. A gentleman came into the space and after a while focussing on the pictures I asked what he thought. He had seen the exhibition advertised on the BMAG Whats on listings and had travelled in especially from Telford in Shropshire to see it.
We talked about the how he is semi retired and visits galleries near and far to get a sense of artists work close up. We discussed portraits, photography, art before taking a picture of each other. He asked if he could take my picture in front of the Portrait of Eileen Wright as it is his favourite because of the ‘glint in her eye at her age’, as well as the big buttons on the phone she used to take he 97th birthday call.
Mike had been to the TATE in Liverpool to see the Rossetti Monna Vanna portrait and had taken a celebratory picture. I pointed out that next door in Gallery 17 is a beautiful picture by Rossetti of Beatrix. He thanked me and went to see it, quickly returning with glee and after one last tour of the portraits made his comment in the book.
As the normal viewing day came to a close a group of women came into Gallery 16. They viewed the portraits with interest and consideration, sharing their views to each other about the portraits and the subjects. They enthusiastically reflected, and nominated their top three! Top of their favourites was Eileen Wright.
I heard later that evening at the private view that as they left the Museum they met Eileen’s daughter and husband on the gallery entrance doorsteps and eulogised about the portrait exhibition and in particular the one of the older lady making her birthday phone call. Wonderful
There are many clever, precise skills and crafts required to hang a 30 frame exhibition. Especially as I wanted a very aligned approach. Getting the balance right between the 3 different sizes of frames to provide an equality of status for each portrait, while a unity across the 4 walls was a priority that Dr Rob achieved to perfection with his attention to detail at every stage. Rob also suggested not using the traditional ‘mirror clips’ to hang the show, but to use security picture fixings. These have the benefit of being hidden from the view as the frames ‘magically’ hang on the wall. In addition the spring locks are secure and prevent the frames being removed with out the ‘special lever. Lawrence at the Framers was able to supply.
Click on the gallery below to see pictures of the process.
Dr Rob Top tip : If the walls are not necessarily flat – you end up with rocking pictures. This can be remedied with a slice of cork behind the frame, but it can become uneven to look at on the oblique view which matters if the galleries are big.