Supporting the work of the Royal Academy of Arts
Meet Dan Cowap, Head of Art Handling & Galleries Manager
Balancing the Art Handling demands of an internationally recognised exhibition display space such as the Royal Academy, could never be easy and never has. Its very make-up, being an “Institution for Artists run by Artists” and independent from external controls, makes it a unique, complex and versatile venue in which to work and display artwork. Unlike many more modern galleries and museums, parts of Burlington House date back to the mid 17th century and therefore hold “listed” status. This in itself creates a number of restrictions and limitations that have to be overcome.
Over many years I have been very fortunate to have contributed to the success of an amazing diversity of exhibitions and artwork displayed at the Academy. Having first visited the Academy as a student to see the Post Impressionism exhibition in the seventies, I then found myself working on the great Reynolds exhibition of the eighties, the Monet exhibition of the nineties and everything else in between, right up to the present day display of Anish Kapoor.
All of these exhibitions have created a variety of different challenges. The paintings in the Reynolds show were very large, heavy and with incredibly thick ornate frames. The sensation exhibition of 1997 required fried eggs to be cooked to a particular specification each and every morning for the run of the show as part of one of the exhibits. Henry Moore in 1988 challenged the very fabric of the building, requiring the RAs ‘Architect & Surveyor to the Fabric of the building’ to ascertain if the floors could support the vast weights; a similar situation we find ourselves in today with the Kapoor exhibition.
In addition to our loan exhibition programme, we do of course have the Summer Exhibition, first started in 1769, the Academy’s Collections and a vibrant and very active Membership of Royal Academicians, involved in all areas of the institution.
Balancing the varied demands of the many facets of the Academy has proved very challenging, ever changing and wonderfully enjoyable for me over the last 25 years. I look forward to this continuing as the Academy strives to bring our many visitors and supporters even more beautiful exhibitions and to provide a ‘little oasis’ just off the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly, in which to retreat, reflect and rediscover.
Head of Art Handling & Galleries Manager