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And was Jerusalem carried here…

6 November 2008 by Sam

People carrying a large painting down a grand staircase

All hands on deck – the handling and transport team carefully manoeuvre the enormous painting of Jerusalem down the stairs

As you are probably aware, the popular Ben Johnson exhibition at the Walker closed earlier this month. Most of the paintings in the exhibition were on loan from other collections, so they have been packed up ready to be returned. One of them, the ‘Jerusalem’ painting, was too big for the lift, so it was carefully carried down the stairs this morning. This was quite an operation – for every person supporting the painting on one side in the photo above, there’s another person hidden on the other side.

The good news is that one of the paintings hasn’t left the Walker. The Liverpool Cityscape belongs to National Museums Liverpool, so it will go back on display on 21 November once the gallery it is in has been rehung.

Have you ever wondered what exactly goes on behind closed doors after an exhibition has closed though? Here’s your chance to find out, as there are some photos of the handling and transport team taking down the Ben Johnson exhibition on our Flickr pages. I’ll let handling technician, senior driver and ace photographer Paul Kelly explain what’s going on in them:


“When works of art are to be moved from one location to another one of the principles we utilise is the creation of micro climatic conditions for the protection of the artwork. We achieve this by essentially wrapping the painting in large sheets of polythene which is then sealed. It sounds easier said than done simply because some of our works are extremely large and the Ben Johnson works fall into this category. The process is quite involved requiring assessment of the job in hand and almost telepathic communication between each member of the team if the goal is to be achieved safely. This work is seldom if ever seen by the general public because after the works are wrapped in Polythene they are put into large wooden crates then onto the vehicle that will transport them to their new location. Other work involved in dismantling an exhibition is the wrapping of the safety barriers and miscellaneous information boards – all part of just another day’s activity for the handling team.

The crates used to transport large paintings need to be handled with extreme caution as they tend to be rather unstable when on the move and can be very heavy. We do have a wide range of skills and equipment to draw on and this enables members of the team to move these big objects effectively and safely.”

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