Ai Weiwei to Klee

Last week at the Phillips Collection was filled with more exciting projects and field trips, keeping me so busy that I almost forgot that I’ll be finishing up my internship pretty soon.  From proofreading manuscripts to making loan receipts to visiting striking exhibitions, this week certainly kept me on my toes.

The week started off with a trip to the Hirshhorn Museum, where I both viewed and engaged in creating masterworks. Yoko Ono’s My Mommy Is Beautiful piece takes up a large wall in the museum’s lobby and invites visitors to write a note about their mothers on an index card and tape it to the wall, which I did along with my fellow Phillips tour-takers. It’s amazing to know that my note, along with countless others, gets to make up a moving piece of artwork hanging in a world-class art museum. On our tour, we got to see the Hirshhorn’s Markus Lupertz exhibition (happening in conjunction with the Phillips’ own exhibition) and the Ai Weiwei exhibition – which presents over 100 portraits of free speech advocates who have been oppressed, made entirely out of legos. I loved the evocative and monumental feelings given off by each exhibition.

After visiting the Hirshhorn, the first half of the week was dominated by the daunting task of proofreading the manuscript for 10 Americans After Paul Klee, an exhibition that opens this fall at Zentrum Paul Klee in Switzerland, and moves to the Phillips Collection in February. While there was a ton of reading to be done, I felt confident that the corrections I made would prove helpful, and I felt really cool getting a sneak peek at the book before it gets published!

In a break from the endless reading and editing of this week I got to help the Development department with a couple of small projects. On Wednesday I packed Markus Lupertz catalogues for exhibition lenders, which thankfully went much smoother than last month’s packing (and re-packing) of George Condo catalogues. Then, on Friday I helped put together folders for the Governance Committee for the Board of Trustees, which showed me how the Board runs itself and decides to take on new trustees. Meeting more of the Development team and learning more about their day to day work was interesting as it once again opened my eyes to the wide range of duties that museum employees perform.

Our second field trip this week took place on Thursday as my supervisor and I headed to the Renwick Gallery for an intimate tour. The museum building itself was a sight to behold with its own fascinating history, from its origin as an art gallery for the Corcoran family and its preservation by Jackie Kennedy to its recent renovation. Of course, the works housed in the museum were equally breathtaking. On the first floor, we walked through exhibitions on the innovative enameling of June Schwarcz and groundbreaking ceramics of Peter Voulkos, both of which I found interesting from a material culture as well as art historical perspective. The upper level revealed some of the quirkier holdings of the Renwick’s permanent collection as well as the new installation of Parallax Gap on the ceiling of the Grand Salon, which drew oohs and ahhs from several visitors (myself included). My experience at the Renwick Gallery showed me how differently art museums can operate, as I compared the museum to the Phillips Collection and the other museums that we visited on our field trips this summer. I found this revelation completely reassuring though, since having plenty of unique museums to visit means that one can never tire of visiting them!

At the end of the week I got to work on some small projects for the Phillips Collection’s registrar by working with the checklist for the upcoming Renoir and Friends show. Using information from the checklist, I filled out preliminary receipts for loaned works and made crate labels for the outside works coming to the museum for the exhibition. I learned that the crate labels are used only by the Phillips registrar to create a smoother transition process at the end of an exhibition and found this idea extremely clever, and hope to remember it if I ever end up doing any work as a museum registrar.

Looking back, last week was an incredibly productive time for me at the Phillips Collection. I got to learn a great deal about different positions and their duties, but I also contributed significantly to a number of different projects. With each passing week, I am growing more confident in my ability to positively contribute to the museum world, so I can only hope that this trend continues through the end of my internship and beyond!