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The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality, and the Moving Image

A Traveling Exhibition of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

    Over the course of two years, staff at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden previewed, prepared, packed, shipped, and installed more than 20 film, video, and computer-based works from its permanent collection and other institutions for a highly complex three-venue international loan exhibition.

    The Exhibition: The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality, and the Moving Image was originally mounted in 2008 at the Hirshhorn in two separate installations: Part I: Dreams and Part II: Realisms. The two-part show was an exploration of contemporary moving-image art and the ways in which the cinematic has blurred distinctions between illusion and reality. The exhibition included works by a range of influential and emerging international artists, including Omer Fast, Gary Hill, Runa Islam, Isaac Julien, Anthony McCall, Steve McAQueen, Tony Oursler, and Andy Warhol.

    Loans and Travel: In 2011, a selection of 20 works from both installations traveled to three venues in Spain. Realisms was installed in CaixaForum Madrid, Dreams in CaixaForum Barcelona, and a combination of the two shows opened at CaixaForum in Palma. Hirshhorn staff spent over two years preparing and overseeing this complex traveling exhibition. In addition to supplying the venues with the media necessary to display the works - DVDs, film prints, and digital files - most of the equipment was also loaned. This allowed the Museum to test each piece, using the relevant media, to ensure that the artworks were displayed according to the artists' specifications. In all, a total of 550 separate components were loaned.

    To keep track of the components, a master document was created that specified which equipment went to which installation with each piece receiving an identifying number. Schematics were included in the installation documentation to simplify the installation process.

    Installation at each venue lasted between nine and fourteen days. At each site, roughly ten people including audiovisual technicians, electricians, and art handlers were needed. Power requirements, in particular, presented unexpected challenges. Although the museums tried to anticipate potential difficulties, unforeseen issues arose at each venue that had to be resolved on the spot. Compared to shows composed of traditional media, The Cinema Effect proved to be an exciting challenge and learning experience for all of the museum professionals who collaborated to make the exhibition a success.