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From Austin to Venice Biennale: 5,614 miles of trucks, planes, and a ferry

By Jennifer Tisdale

The Harry Ransom Center supports an active program of loans from its collections, balancing the task of preparing and processing materials for loan with its own exhibition program. The loans, which share the Center’s collections with a wider audience, are considered on the basis of their merit and contribution to the humanities.

Last year, more than 135 items were loaned to 16 institutions, placing the Ransom Center’s holdings in context with other collections throughout the U.S. and internationally.

One of the Center’s most recent loans is a nearly complete set of the photographs Walker Evans made for the first edition of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the 1941 book collaboration with James Agee that documented the daily lives of tenant farming families in the Deep South. Evans’s 30 photographs are part of the 2015 Venice Biennale’s exhibition All the World’s Futures, organized by curator Okwui Enwezor.

Loading the Ferry in Venice. Image courtesy of Gabriela Truly, The Blanton Museum of Art
Loading the Ferry in Venice. Image courtesy of Gabriela Truly, The Blanton Museum of Art

Loans require a courier to ensure the safety of the materials and to help navigate the complex, and often byzantine, transportation and delivery route as well as customs. Shipping the Walker Evans photographs from Austin to Venice involved trucks, cargo planes, and a ferry. The final leg of this journey also included a forklift to retrieve the materials from the dock and bring them to the exhibition building.

Once materials arrive, the courier oversees the proper unpacking and safe installation of the collection materials. Couriers document all processes, from security to lighting conditions.

Within its photography collection, the Ransom Center holds over 300 photographs made by Evans for Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, many of them unpublished. The Center also holds a collection of Agee’s materials.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art also loaned material to the Venice Biennale, specifically Terry Adkins’s multi-media sculpture Single Bound (2000). These loans were consolidated into one shipment, and Gabriela Truly, the Blanton’s Director of Collections and Exhibitions, served as courier for the University’s loans.

Single Bound and the set of Evans’s photographs are on view at the Venice Biennale through November 22.

Additional University participation in the Venice Biennale includes Ann Reynolds, professor of art history at The University of Texas at Austin. Reynolds wrote the main essay for a fully illustrated catalog in conjunction with Joan Jonas’s exhibition They Come to Us without a Word. Read more about Dr. Reynolds here and view the press release for the Joan Jonas exhibition here.


Related Content:

Wall Street Journal’s Three Standout Exhibits at the Venice Biennale


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