One of the very first shows I curated at the club allowed for one of my nightmares to play out as we were getting ready to hang the show. The art had been delivered a few days earlier, so it was in our secure storage area at the club – a location in the basement. My paranoia had caused me to drape the giant trash bags over the art. It’s a basement, so it wasn’t an irrational fear. We were getting ready to move the last few pieces of the art when I noticed water sitting on the bags. I thought I was in the clear because they were covered, but someone during the process of shifting things around had also exposed the art – water had seeped into the bag and got into two of the frames.
Seeing this, I was panicked. I got to call an artist and tell her that two elaborate pieces she had created were damaged. I was quickly going through my memory to see if I could recall how much those pieces cost in case compensation was demanded. Artists sign a contract releasing the club from liability, but I knew it was still going to be raised.
The pieces dried without damage in the end. And the artist was awesome about it. Her first response was, "OMG! Let me bring another copy I have!" rather than, "HOW DARE YOU!?!" She was incredibly gracious and understanding. Hell, she told me later that shit was going to happen to her art – unexpected things – so she needed to take steps like scan the pieces before sending them to a club. And more importantly, she said she needed to let go of what happens to them as damage is always possible no matter how careful you try to be.
Despite her reassurance and all, I still have a nightmare about the art getting damaged while in the club. It has happened three other times – once when I paid out money for the damaged pieces and the other two times were my own pieces. And each time, it sucks.
Last show, I had these incredibly heavy pieces on the wall. I had checked and rechecked our hanging system to make sure it could handle it. I knew it was installed well. And I took other precautions to settle my mind.
These pieces were up for an entire month. I was relieved to be getting them off of the walls and into the hands of the owner. As we were packing them up (we being me and the artist and his wife), I took one of the last seven pieces off of the wall. And just as I turned to walk it back to its box, there was a huge KABOOM!!
The hanging system gave way. Two of the heavy pieces hit the floor – one damaged, the other broken. I stood there dumbfounded. Part of the hanging system was hanging off of the wall, other parts of it were on the floor, the pieces had landed in weird ways – and in that moment, my nightmare was a reality.
The artist was holding it together. You could tell he wanted to be angry, but couldn’t find a place to direct his anger. You could tell he wanted to cry, but he was trying to hold it together by saying it is just art – no one was hurt. (And honestly, with the weight of those two things, someone could have been hurt.)
As for me, I apologized – I expressed my shock that this happened (I mean, this was a worst case scenario!) And I apologized some more. Then I took steps to make sure that the remaining pieces were removed all at the exact same time to mitigate any further risk to the pieces. I think that part gave him reassurance that I truly cared.
His parting words were, "Oh, don’t worry – if my insurance won’t cover it, you’ll be hearing from me."
I messaged the maintenance guy to warn him about damage to the floor and wall.
I fixed the hanging system which was 100% in tact and undamaged (ironically).
I messaged the owners with a full explanation of what happened, etc.
Then in the middle of this messaging on Monday, I got a message from the artist. "Insurance won’t cover it. You need to cover it. I expect payment for both pieces. $1500. Let me know what our next steps are."
The remainder of Monday and into Tuesday was all about finding contracts that were signed to prove that they were signed. Attorneys were getting involved. Insurance people were getting involved. And I was running around hoping and praying I could provide everything that was needed.
It has been silent since Tuesday afternoon. Tonight’s the opening night for the new art show, and I am expecting an update from the owners. I am antsy and nervous for many reasons.
I just don’t want any more KABOOMs. I want a "we have it handled – we’ve got your back" sort of message. I want a "you did it all right – shit happens" comment. I want something that will shut down that voice in my head that keeps going over and over what I should have done differently – what could have prevented this.
Tis all I want.