It’s a portent. Gallery. Mess.
Walking into London’s Saatchi Gallery to set up for this year’s Crafts Council COLLECT fair, I notice the signage over the posh café that’s pimping itself at the entrance to Charles Saatchi’s refurbished military barracks, aka Duke of York Headquarters, aka chichi Chelsea’s chicest exhibition space. We’ve arrived. That’s me, Jamie, our gallery’s assistant director, and Jeff, formerly our gallery’s head preparator until he moved to England.
How cool is this? It’s our fourth time doing COLLECT. We must think this makes sense.
It’s 8:00 am. The start of Set-up Time. Inside, nose-singeing paint fumes, open buckets of Dulux 00/63 Dark Grey and wet booth walls tell me “not yet”.
To say nothing of the gaping hole and screaming seam in the panel at the front of the stand.
OK, we head to the closest coffee bar. Unable to cleanse my nostrils of the paint fumes, I disgorge my breakfast into the tiny sink at the back of the bar.
Jamie and Jeff go sweetly nursey. “Go lie down. We can do this.”
Gladly. I retreat to the flat. Fall over. Wake up five hours later. OMG. It’s 2:30. They’ll be done.
Dash back to Saatchi. Not.
Good news: the art’s been delivered.
Bad news: More than six hours after Start Time the back wall panels of the booth still haven’t been patched, filled or repainted.
Jeff and Jamie struggle around the edges of the stand, hanging Sarmiento’s Octavia, Spider-web city and its two Calvino mates.
What is this web trying to tell me?
While J & J work around the mess, I work my way into the face of the kindly and patient Crafts Council person who pleads into her walkie talkie for help. Supposedly it’s on the way.
It arrives. An hour and a half later.
4:15 Painter #1 begins to patch.
4:17 Painter #2 arrives. A consultant? He suggests that Painter #1 is needed elsewhere.
4:20: Painters #1 and #2 depart, promising to return “in a minute”.
4:47 Minutes pass. Still waiting…
…while Akester’s kids whine that their toys haven’t been unpacked and it’s almost their bedtime.
5:00 Screw the paint job. Jeff positions and hangs shelves over unpainted wall.
5:45 Still no painters. We’ve now been at the stand for over nine hours.
5:55 At last. My dream come true. A painter’s butt.
…and it’s kicking ass.
…oops….by 6:00 it’s gone. J & J take over.
Jeff does the touch up that was clearly outside the capabilities of the Drive By Painting Co. while Jamie – rather than wait another 12 hours for the Professional Floor Covering Removal Crew – begins yet another DIY booth project.
Meanwhile, the other Akester kids puzzle over why they’ve been staring at the backside of a Surgent panel since noon. “This is OUR plinth!”
OK, OK, 6:30 and the Surgents are off the plinth and on the wall.
7:00 Time to stop waiting for Brachlow’s Waiting.
J & J Muscle Movers hoist fifty pounds of cast glass into place.
….next to its mates at the front of the stand.
7:15 Eleven hours later, we’re done. Except for title cards and a bit of dusting that will wait until the next day. For now Jeff and Jamie are late for the Langhorne Slim concert.
Clawing our way out of Saatchi, I notice an as-yet-unpacked crate in our neighbor’s booth.
Another portent? Possibly. But this one is someone else’s.