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Art, cake and protocols: Mumbai gallerists, curators tell us how they protect artworks from damage

Updated on: 01 June,2022 10:31 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Tanishka D’Lyma |

After cake was smeared on the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum, Paris, we spoke to city gallerists and curators on precautionary measures they take to protect artworks from damage

Art, cake and protocols: Mumbai gallerists, curators tell us how they protect artworks from damage

Representative Image

Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, director, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum

Since the Museum Trust was formed in 2003, it has been in charge of the museum collection. We have not had any incidents. The museum has a protocol in place for the safety of its objects. Water and edible items are not allowed inside; instead, we provide filtered, drinking water stations near the Museum Café. This is a safety measure we take right at the beginning when visitors enter. Secondly, all objects are in thick and sturdy wooden cases and structures that protect them. Hypothetically, if any damage to museum objects were to occur, the gallery staff will alert the curatorial staff, who will inspect the damage with conservators. The objects will be taken off display, subjected to thorough checks, and a detailed documentation report will be made. Finally, the objects will be repaired and restored before being put on display again. Moreover, we have stringent daily security protocols in place. Every day before the museum opens and after it shuts, we do a thorough check to count and inspect all the displayed objects, the showcases, the windows and so on. And every Wednesday, we take a few objects for cleaning. There is a consistent watch on all displays.

Hena Kapadia, founder, Tarq

The incident in Paris was an act of protest and we’ve never faced that at the gallery, but we do have basic policies in place to ensure that art is safeguarded. We speak to viewers as they enter, especially if it’s an interactive exhibit where people are meant to touch the artwork or if the pieces are very delicate. Additionally, people with large backpacks can keep it at the reception before they walk around. In transporting the artwork, we ensure all packaging is waterproof, and artworks are protected within crates. We have professional packers and shifters, and a trained team of art-handlers onboard.

Dr Arshiya Lokhandwala, curator, art historian and gallerist, Lakeeren Gallery

While hanging works in a gallery, one has to be prepared for anything precarious — pieces getting stolen or vandalised are possibilities. The Mona Lisa has a protective glass covering, which is a way of being prepared and taking precautions. Additionally, one can have  attendants to ensure that viewers don’t touch the work, maintain distance, and children are supervised.

Dadiba Pundole, owner, Pundole Art Gallery

One can take all the precautions that are possible but even beyond that, accidents can happen. Besides surveillance, you can have physical monitoring to some extent. Everyone knows there’s a protective glass around the Mona Lisa, so the act was aimed at drawing attention. What can you do to foresee and prevent something like that?

Atyaan Jungalwala, co-founder, Chemould/Shift

We put down masking tape on the floor so people are aware that they cannot go beyond a boundary, the artworks are insured and framed in museum glass, and ‘do not touch signs are placed near the display, especially if they are fragile and pique curiosity in a way that  people want to touch it.

Sanjana Shah, gallerist and curator, Tao Art Gallery

The protocol depends on the exhibition we’re showcasing. If it’s an exhibition of a senior artist or a master, we hold invite-only private previews so every viewer is accounted for. For public viewing, staff is positioned around the gallery to monitor. Moreover, paintings are framed with glass, and a barricade is placed around sculptures. But if anything does get damaged, there are ways to restore the work to an extent; this is the last resort. And finally, all the artworks in the gallery’s collection and our master collections are insured.

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