Art & Archives, Behind the Scenes, Exhibitions and Installations, Prints and Drawings, Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Seven Things I Learned from “Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture”

Interior gallery view of Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture: Inspiration and Invention

Now that the Leonardo exhibition has closed, as co-curator—along with Anne-Lise Desmas, associate curator in the Department of Sculpture and the Decorative Arts—I can take stock of some of the things I’ve learned. I’m sad to see the exhibition go, but happy that it was seen by a great number of people: an average of 20,399 visitors per week, the highest ever for an exhibition at the Getty.

1. Visitors love having magnifying glasses in exhibitions of drawings. We’ve included them in several recent shows; they were very popular and were used a lot. We intend to make them a standard part of every drawings display.

2. There’s no need to have galleries too full of objects. In this exhibition we planned a deliberately uncrowded arrangement to avoid visitor flow issues; people seemed to have plenty to look at, and—thanks to our clever designers—the rooms never looked sparse.

3. It makes me really happy to see artists and youngsters sketching in the galleries. I love the thought of art inspiring art, as it always has in the past.

4. I realized how relatively easy it is to install and de-install framed drawings, and how relatively difficult it is to install and de-install works of sculpture. (I posted about this here.)

5. Leonardo is a master among masters. It made my head hurt trying to get a grasp of his activity across so many fields.

6. Even in an exhibition focused on the subject of Leonardo and sculpture (which doesn’t relate to the Mona Lisa at all) visitors still ask where the Mona Lisa is. (Answer: the Louvre.) It’s not often that an artist becomes so completely defined by one work.

7. It really does take a village. Literally dozens of Getty staff have been involved in this exhibition in one way or another: the preparators who deftly handled the ton-heavy sculptures, the registrars who mastered the loan paperwork and arranged the shipping of the works, the paper conservators who monitored the condition of the drawings, the object conservators who checked the sculptures, the lighting technicians who used “cherrypickers” to arrange the gallery lighting, the security guards who kept the works safe, the designers who created a look and feel for the show, helped plan the installation, and showed the objects at their best, the exhibitions department who coordinated with our exhibition partner (the High Museum, Atlanta) and kept everything on track, the mount makers who kept the sculptures safe from possible earthquakes, the matters and framers who dealt with the drawings loans, the bookstore staff who cheerily did the business, the events department who orchestrated the wonderful opening reception, the education and public programs departments who organized talks and events, the visitor services staff who welcomed visitors, the volunteers who counted the visitors, the Web and interactive programs departments who organized the audio guides and Web content, and the communications team who got the word out…hmmm, come to think of it, more of a town than a village. In any event, I’m so grateful for my colleagues!

Banners for Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture: Inspiration and Invention at the Getty Center

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One Comment

  1. Gregg
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I think it would take far more than one exhibition to display da Vinci’s work and yes, the Mona Lisa is very popular ( which I have seen ) but the drawings are spectacular. I think the magnifying glass is a wonderful idea considering the detail in the drawings.
    Is there anywhere to check the exhibition schedule to see when it will be in my area? (Houston). I wonder if they will have magnifying glasses?

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