If you’ve visited the Whitney Western Art Museum in the last couple of days, you may have noticed some conspicuous bare walls around the gallery. Well, there’s good reason for the changes taking place – we’re sharing some of our treasures beyond our walls! The staff here at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West has been hard at work deinstalling several paintings and sculptures in the Whitney in preparation to travel the exhibition, Go West! Art of the American Frontier.
What does it take to deinstall and prepare works of art for travel, you ask? Well, it takes logistics, time, and a team of knowledgeable experts. Planning, preparation, and communication are key. Members from the curatorial, registration, conservation, and collections management departments (plus volunteers!) work together in all steps of the process.
First, Curator Karen McWhorter identifies which works must be deinstalled. Then, a team led by Senior Registrar Greta Russell and Chief Conservator Beverly Perkins examines and records the condition of each work of art. Exhibition Production Manager Gary Miller determines a day and time at which staff can convene to remove works from the gallery and rallies the troops. Some of the paintings and sculptures included in Go West! are quite large and require multiple staff members to deinstall – it can be an “all hands on deck” situation! Works are loaded onto carts and carefully transported to a secure vault where a team packs them, one by one, in specialty crates. Collections Manager Ann Marie Donoghue leads the packing and crating process. Depending on the size of the object, it may take several people to pack one piece! Once the works are securely packed, they are ready to be shipped. Last year, Go West! traveled to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. This year, the show heads to the Palm Springs Art Museum in California.
Go West! presents a century of art dating from 1830 to 1930. There are ninety works included in the exhibition, seventy-five are from the Whitney and fifteen are from the Plains Indian Museum. Some of the western American artists represented in the show include: Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, Charles M. Russell, Alfred Jacob Miller, Rosa Bonheur, John Henry Twachtman, Alexander Phimister Proctor and Frederic Remington. Their paintings and sculptures explore the American West as both myth and reality through the subjects of western landscapes, its diverse people, and fascinating wildlife. These works of art chronicle the colliding and merging of cultures, the encroachment and effects of Euro-American settlement and industrialization, and the ruggedness and beauty of the western countryside. Go West! brings together some of the most beloved paintings and sculpture in the Whitney’s collection, and we are thrilled to share these special treasures with audiences near and far!