Behind the scenes

5FK-P1-F1-1992-33 Rehanging one the rooms dedicated to 19th-century French painting in the Louvre, 1992 © akg-images / CDA / Guillemot / St-Genès
5FK-P1-F1-1992-33 Rehanging one the rooms dedicated to 19th-century French painting in the Louvre, 1992 © akg-images / CDA / Guillemot / St-Genès

Earlier this week, I was invited to a private view of this year’s summer exhibition at the National Gallery in London, Vermeer and Music. The private view started at 9am, one hour before the gallery opens to the general public, so it was a real and much appreciated privilege not only to see the exhibition but also to get a glimpse of the National Gallery ‘out of hours’, as staff members busily prepared themselves for the doors opening at ten and the hundreds (thousands?) of people who visit the permanent collection and temporary exhibits each day.

Last month, photographer and friend of akg Philipp Rank was nominated for the Objektiv Fotopreis 2013, an Austrian award given annually for the best press photograph. Keen readers of the blog may recognise Philipp’s name as the photographer behind the shot of Erich Lessing we used in our post celebrating Mr Lessing’s upcoming birthday (he’s 90 this Saturday!). Philipp’s entry for the photo prize is a fantastic shot: a cleaner, complete with floor polisher, readying the space in front of the Mona Lisa for the visitors who have made the pilgrimage to the Louvre to see the iconic painting.

How many people visiting the Louvre think about the teams of people working behind the scenes to keep the museum clean, tidy and safe? What about the logistics of hanging, cleaning and conserving the great artworks and artefacts spread across all the museums and galleries not just in Paris, but across the globe? What goes on in those collections is a mystery to most of us and often the museum or gallery is unwilling to give away too many of its secrets, which is completely understandable, given the value of the objects on show.

A number of our photographers have, however, been lucky enough to peek behind the scenes at some of the world’s most prestigious museums and see what happens when the buildings or closed, or what happens behind those doors marked “staff only”.

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