International art courier

Article Detail

Thursday 11 December 2014
Sarah Hillary

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I recently travelled to Europe for the installation of the Gottfried Lindauer: The Māori Portraits exhibition at the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), Berlin. I couriered the twelve biggest paintings that were too large for a regular plane cargo and had to go by air freighter.

My role as courier began when the crated paintings were collected from Auckland Art Gallery and taken to the airport for palletisation. From then on I was responsible for getting them safely to their destination in Germany.

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The crates on the pallet, wrapped in plastic and webbing, ready to be loaded.

The only area of seating in the freighter was behind the cockpit, including a small kitchenette and bathroom. The seats are large and comfortable. There are no movies or alcohol, but you can make endless cups of tea and heat up your own meals when you feel like it.

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Flying over Zagros Mountains in Iran

The trip involved stop-offs in Singapore, Chennai (Madras), Sharjah (UA Emirates) and Amsterdam. After two days of air travel it was still another eight and a half hours by truck to Berlin, but I arrived early on the 9 November just in time for the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Berlin. It was an incredible celebration and definitely worth staying awake for!

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Balloons illuminating the Berlin Wall for the celebrations

The installation of the exhibition took eight days and there was a wonderful team of people involved, including my colleague and Senior Registrar from Auckland, Julie Koke. I also had the chance to meet with conservators from the Alte and Neue Nationalgalerie ( Old and New National Galleries) who were interested to hear a bit more about Lindauer’s technique.

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Presentation about Lindauer painting technique to local conservators.
Kerstin Krainer, conservator Alte Nationagalerie (second from left), Ina Hausmann (third from left) private conservator involved with the installation, Hana Striecher from the Neue Nationalgalerie (third from the right), Kristina Mösl, Head of Conservation Alte Nationalgalerie (second from right), and Sophie Matthews, Project Manager for the Lindauer exhibition.

Māori representatives of the sitters in the portraits as well as a descendant of the artist came to Berlin for the various openings, much to the delight of the media and Berlin audience. Also present were Auckland Art Gallery Director, Rhana Devenport, Indigenous Curator and Lindauer expert, Ngahiraka Mason, and members of Haerewa (Auckland Art Gallery's Māori Advisory Board) including the Chair, Elizabeth Ellis.

Afterwards, I travelled to Prague to continue my research into Lindauer’s technique. I met with Theodora Popova, Assistant Professor (Restoration) at The Academy of Fine Arts, to examine a number of early works by the artist. Finally I visited Pilsen, the birthplace of Gottfried Lindauer and the location of another exhibition devoted to his work opening in May 2015.

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View of Prague from Petrin Hill