We originally began working on the Chesham Place project in 2008, and the entire process was completed around 18 months later, with everything having successfully been inventoried, packed, and safely shipped to America. The project was no ordinary object move; it involved an enormous number of highly valuable and delicate antiques, paintings, and especially large antique furniture.
The brief for the project was to pack and crate the majority of artworks, antiques, object art and domestic items on site for removal over a 3 week period. The residence consisted of two large apartments, one on the 2nd and 3rd floor and the other above on the 4th. A survey of the collection was conducted to evaluate the packing requirements of the different objects and compare the manifest supplied by the client with the actual contents of the apartments. We had originally planned to use an external scaffold as a working platform to crane the largest objects down to our vehicle. However the neighbours were unwilling to accept this type of disruption and we had to seek an alternative method of removal. The solution turned out to be hiring an external furniture lift and operator to convey the contents of the apartments to the ground via a second floor window. This proved to be a very useful and popular method that greatly reduced the physical effort that would have been required to move everything down the stairs.
Due to the sheer volume of museum standard items, the packing and removal had to be organised as a rolling system that was adaptable to the restricted domestic space our staff was working within. As the project also involved a large amount of un-audited items, these had to be recorded and added to the manifest as they were located around the residence. Many of the objects required thoughtful and considerate packing due to the fragility of the items and high value of the collection. Our main concern was the safety and security of these objects and protecting them from external forces such as vibration and changes in temperature and relative humidity during storage and shipping.
The nature of the job meant that we not only had to undertake numerous site visits, but that there was a very large amount of specialised onsite packing and removals that needed to be arranged, and also an extremely high number of important items that had to be inventoried and kept track of. Many items were soft packed at the premises and brought back to our warehouse for more specific packing. Challenges faced during packing included ensuring the objects were all correctly and clearly labeled to make sure that we were correctly declaring the contents of each crate to customs, noting the different destinations of the items and ensuring the crates were packed accordingly, and we had to work hard to ensure that we kept track of every items location, which was made easier by the introduction of our FADAS system *(Fine Arts Data Application Server) which was a key aspect of the success of this enormous task.
Also, we encountered a number of different challenges in arranging the exportation of the items, mainly facing challenges in the application process for the necessary export licence's. We faced many problems, firstly due to the scale of the project and the sheer number of items that required such a licence, and secondly due to the amount of documentation that was then required for each individual application. We had a number of meetings directly with the MLA about the best way for us to proceed facing such a challenge. We eventually undertook approximately 150 separate export licence applications, and when faced with such difficulties as a lack of some important documentation, we had to think laterally to find a solution that was viable to the client and also that agreed with the decision of the MLA with regards to the exportation of the antiques of the client. The lessons that we learned from this task are ones that will greatly enhance our future work on such large and delicate removal jobs.
This job allowed the coordinators here at Constantine to build close working relationships with the client, providing a consistently high level of service, and ensuring that the client was kept informed and updated with the progress of all aspects of such a complex job.
Also this job allowed us to look into further developing our collections management systems, as we understand that these systems will not only allow clients to manage their artwork collections, but will be invaluable for us for undertaking such a large and complex removals job where so many antique and valuable objects are involved.
Cold War Modern Exhibition
Victoria & Albert Museum, 25th September 2008 to 11th January 2009
MART Rovereto, 28th March 2009 to 26th July 2009
In 2008 we were contracted by the Victoria & Albert Museum to handle the transport co-ordination of the various loans to the above exhibition. The exhibition consisted of approx 300 art and design objects from over 50 lenders (Museums, Galleries and Private Collections) in 13 different Countries (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, the Netherlands, UK and USA) with around 20 couriers. UK Government Indemnity covered the exhibition.
The objects included a variety of medium and sizes, from 2D (drawings, prints and paintings) to 3D Sculptures, Architectural, Design Furniture, Space Suits and Dresses as well as Motor Vehicles such as the Italian Vespa Scooter, the P70 Coupe Car and the micro car Messerschmitt Kabinenroller.
Due to large number of loans and lenders and the fact that it was going to be a touring exhibition, V&A and Constantine staff kept in close contact starting from the estimate stages, to prepare and revise estimate of charges as changes occurred, particularly when the exhibition tour changed last venue from Canada (2 venues) to Lithuania (one venue).
Constantine and V&A staff continued meeting on a regular basis since the early stage of co-ordination when Constantine started contacting the lenders and liaise with the various overseas agents to ascertain the initial packing, transport and courier requirements for each individual lender.
Particular attention was required and given to the transport road planning in Europe. For this we had to carefully take into account the installation requirements at the V&A, the restricted access at the V&A, size and weights of vehicles coming from Europe and try to consolidate wherever possible and agreeable with the V&A and lenders as many loans from the same area on the same trucks. The restricted access at the V&A meant that Constantine had to organize shuttle vehicles to be on stand-by at the V&A ready to assist with the delivery and unloading of various overseas truck loads into the V&A and on some occasions overnight at our secure, climate controlled warehouse in SE London for onward delivery to the V&A the following morning. For some particular heavy and large cases special Hi-Ab trucks had to be supplied by Constantine as well as sub-contracting special Car Transporter Trailers.
For the loans from Russia Constantine and V&A staff had to use plenty of management and diplomacy skills to obtain all necessary export approvals and VISA for couriers in time for the shipment and again carefully plan the road movement from Russia.
After the assembly was completed Constantine organized the storage of a large number of empty cases (approx 110 cubic meters) and the construction of approx 46 V&A specification cases for their objects due for the tour.
In between closing at the V&A and opening at MART in Italy (due to a gap in the schedule and not available space at the venues) Constantine was also requested to collect and store the entire exhibition touring to Italy into our climate controlled facilities in SE London. Again, careful planning was required for the collection from the V&A - over 15 shuttle vehicles were required all accompanied by couriers. The exhibition needed approx 200 square meters of climate controlled space which Constantine was able to offer.
The transfer to MART Rovereto was organized by Constantine following strict transport security conditions with overnight stops en route and was carried out in 3 convoys (two trucks per convoy) all accompanied by V&A couriers on board.
We were originally approached by an exhibition design company to estimate for the installation of the Olympic Torch and a bigger than life size bronze bust of Sir Arthur Elgin in the atrium of Wembley Stadium in August 2008.
The main problem with the project was that the Olympic Torch was taller than any access into the proposed exhibition area. The possibility of craning the piece into the building proved un-workable due to the construction and design of the stadium and a further concern was the floor loadings within the building. The torch itself weighed in at 1.3 tons and the bust at 1.6 tons. Both objects were temporarily stored in the loading bay of the stadium, which was just a short walk from the installation area. However, there was no direct route between the two and the only route available to us took us outside and half way around the building.
In order to get the Olympic Torch inside the atrium we would have to crate it and support it enough to be able to tip it onto its side, using gantries and lifting equipment. Due to the objects construction there were many concerns about its integrity and ability to survive such a move unscathed. The top and base of the piece are large heavy components, whilst the interconnecting pillar provides support but only on two sides. This meant the crating and internal battening had to support all of these components in all three dimensions to avoid any damage to the object during transit and installation.
The installation process had to take place outside of normal working hours to avoid any unnecessary disruption to the public and the possibility of anyone getting in harms way. The tipping of the torch was a slow and quite laborious process, as two gantries were required and further equipment was needed to safely construct these lifting frames. Once on its side, the torch was moved to the outside of the building by Wembley staff with an off-road folk-lift. Both Objects were then moved into the building by our staff who had prepared the work space with plywood and aluminium plates to spread the load of the objects and avoid damage to the tiled floor during the installation. The gantries were rebuilt within the atrium and the tipping process was reversed and the outer crate removed from the object. It was then rigged again for transfer onto its display plinth and slowly moved into place in its final location. The design company staff then rebuilt the display around the object while we installed the large Elgin bust at the far end of the atrium.