Logistics behind Art Fairs and Exhibitions
Discover the Hidden Complex Logistics behind Art Fairs and Exhibitions
By opening the doors of Artgenève to nearly 25,000 visitors, Palexpo metamorphoses itself. Its 20,000 square metres are laid out, the gallery stands installed and all the works of art set off. Behind those 5 days of exhibition, a complex organization orchestrated in part by the company Harsch, the fair’s official partner for logistics and storage. Present on the premises, all our collaborators are ready to receive the trucks transporting the works of art, deal with customs formalities, install and deinstall the works of art. In addition to big fairs like Artgenève, Harsch takes care all year round of all the steps related to the logistics of different art exhibitions in Switzerland. Magali Gaugy gives us an insight into this process.
Active on the market for 60 years, Harsch is in charge of around 10 exhibitions annually. For many years, the company has been a privileged partner for many Swiss cultural institutions, like for instance MAMCO (Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain) and MAH (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire) in Geneva, or MCBA (Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts) in Lausanne. With this sustained rhythm, several exhibitions are organized in parallel, each with a different agenda.
However, the work starts long beforehand, more or less a year before the event, by responding to the museum’s invitation to tender. Several days are needed to give an estimate, as all the national and international partners and agents have to be contacted. Two or three months before the opening of the exhibition, the museum contacts the chosen transporter. And that’s when the real organizational process can begin!
A month before the opening, Harsch contacts its agents to organize the packing and removal of the works of art at the premises of each foreign lender. “We also have our in-house specialists who can produce custom-built crates to guarantee the security and safety of the works of art” explains Magali Gaugy, specialized in logistics for art exhibitions.
The transport will take place in lorries specially equipped for fine art. They come with GPS and alarm systems, and have all the necessary equipment to secure the works of art. Then, Harsch collaborators plan their arrival in Switzerland. Magali Gaugy adds that “It’s a very complex organization. We have to manage the numerous couriers, collaborators of the museums that lend us the works and who accompany them from the moment they are removed from the museum until their delivery, unpacking and installation. In other words, for one exhibition, we can have up to fifteen couriers who have come to watch the installation of the works of art over several days!”
Harsch also offers tailor-made services which the museum can choose, depending on its capacities and needs. For instance, insurances for transport or specialists for the installation of the works. Big museums usually have their own team of specialists who collect the works at the unloading depot, unpack and install them on the rails, whereas the smaller institutions regularly hire specialized compagnies for this task.
Magali Gaugy smiles: “If there are no hiccups, it’s not a good exhibition”, and gives us a personal anecdote. “Recently, we had to transport works from a British museum, but our lorry was stopped at the border in Calais at 10 p.m., to check its clearance certificates. I spent all night on the phone with the drivers to see how it was going. In the end, it turned out that the customs officers didn’t know that, following Brexit the regulations had changed. Our lorry was allowed to continue its journey early in the morning. Those last-minute problems keep us awake and make our job as transporters of fine art so exciting!”