In Joana Vasconcelos’ studio in Lisbon, technicians are assembling and testing the three versions of Full Steam Ahead in readiness for the exhibition. These kinetic sculptures in the shape of water lilies have steam irons for petals which open and close to mimic the movement of real flowers. Red, yellow and green (the colours of the Portuguese flag), the sculptures will slowly unfurl one after the other, hissing and releasing steam to create a dramatic, hot and humid robotic flower garden.
Behind the scenes, staff across the gallery are busy getting ready for the exhibition opening on February 15. The culmination of over two years work begins to gather pace in the final weeks before a large scale exhibition such as this. All the logistics start falling into place, international transport of artworks, insurance, organising accommodation for the artist and her staff, checking spot loading capacities of the exhibition spaces – so that we know the larger pieces will not introduce any undue stress to the fabric of the building – and signing off designs for advertising and display materials for example.
This exhibition, which includes some very large scale and heavy works such as Lilicoptère, War Games or the monumental new textile work Britannia, poses some real challenges to our curators, art handlers and building managers. We’ll film and document the installation of these works and post about it here as the weeks go on.
In the meantime, to get a sense of the scale and grandeur of her works, visit Joana Vasconcelos’ website.