Some thoughts about moving medieval works of art
Art critic Blake Gopnik has recently posed the question that has concerned experts and ordinary art lovers for a long time, namely whether it is worth risking the condition of a work by transporting it and staging an exhibition for the sake of yet another blockbuster event.. Is it really necessary to move artworks on such a large scale as is customary today? Why and for the sake of what concept is it worth putting at risk works which are several centuries old? How should a journey of several thousand or even just a few kilometres be prepared? What are the risk factors? The dilemma can be reduced to two fundamental elements – the tension between the needs of preservation and the demand for visibility. Museums increasingly appear to regard the latter as important. When a museum closes temporarily due to renovation, its works are usually dispatched to be seen elsewhere. Whether an artwork travels the distance of only a few streets or several hundred kilometres, the degree of danger is the same. The risk of damage can be reduced to a minimum only by careful preparation. When weighing up the pros and cons several factors can be considered, but in the end decisions are made in line with museum strategies and various interests. Restorative treatment of works during a well-prepared and well-planned project may be beneficial. Indeed, you can often read about artworks which have been damaged beyond repair. A change in temperature or humidity may cause damage which can sometimes be redressed only by very expensive restoration. A well-worked out, professionally dynamic concept is perhaps worth the risk. Nevertheless, multiple care is required. It would be a mistake to finally put the argument for visibility before preservation. After all, should an object of art be severely damaged or destroyed, visibility is no longer an issue.