Memorable installation


POSTED: Sunday, September 06, 2009

Talk about interesting work. Pauline Sugino's job at the Honolulu Academy of Arts has taken her all over the world, from Asia to Europe, where she's escorted academy-owned artwork to galleries and museums for exhibiting.

Words that come to mind: Jet-setter. Glamorous. Exciting. Lucky.

Yet for all that, Sugino says her recent trip to Washington, D.C., to accompany six oil paintings on loan to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye was especially memorable. The paintings are now hanging in the Appropriations Committee conference room at the Capitol, where Inouye holds court.

“;There's something special about hanging those paintings in that room and realizing people would be deciding things in front of all those works,”; says Sugino, a staffer in the academy's registrar office. “;They bring a real warmth to that room.”;

In February, Inouye took his request to friend Sam Cooke, an academy trustee, who introduced the idea of a loan to director Stephen Little and Theresa Papanikolas, curator of American and European art. Together with Courtney Brebbia, European and American art collections manager, they selected works for Inouye to view.

“;I wanted Hawaii's top-notch artists to be able to display themselves in Washington rather than languishing in a warehouse,”; Inouye says. “;I wanted as much diversity as possible, not just Waikiki and beaches. I wanted to show what Hawaii looked like in the 19th century and the early 20th century.”;

In the end the senator chose six oils: David Howard Hitchcock's “;Lawai, Kauai,”; “;Outrigger on the Beach”; and “;McInerney's First Store”;; Lionel Walden's “;Marine and Cliffs”; and “;The Torchlight Fishermen, Waikiki”;; and Shirley Russell's “;Boys' Day.”; The loan is for two years.

Sugino's work isn't all globetrotting and glamour. In fact, before anyone in her office ever sets foot on a plane, they've no doubt put in countless hours of meticulous planning and prepping.

“;This project went from the spring to Aug. 17, the shipping date of the works. The loan process is a long process; we usually work a couple of years in advance,”; Sugino says. “;But this was special.

“;We coordinate the logistics of shipping and preparing artwork for exhibits outside the academy,”; she explains. “;We check the artwork to see if it's safe for travel, then consult with conservation people to have its condition assessed and to get a proposal on treatment. We consult with crate builders for shipping. Our office, along with the curatorial office, reviews the conditions of how the work will be exhibited. We consider security. Then we draw up loan agreements, which are legal documents, and arrange insurance coverage. We also arrange for shipping with a courier.

“;We take the utmost care in ensuring that ... everything's set. We leave nothing to chance.”;

All that investment of time, energy, expertise and care makes the registrar staffers particularly suited to accompanying precious artwork to their destinations.

While it's not uncommon for senators to display art, often from museums in their home states, “;we've never done anything like this before,”; Papanikolas says.

Loaning artwork to exhibit in a government building as compared with the protective environment of another museum “;presents new things to consider,”; she said. “;We had to be clear about how the works would be installed. A senator couldn't just come in and say, 'I don't like it there. Move it to that wall.' We must be very cautious because we're throwing additional risk to the work.”;

What helped minimize the risk factor is that the Capitol employs its own curatorial staff.

“;They oversee 3,000 artworks of various kinds,”; Sugino says. “;The building itself is decorated with frescos on the walls and ceilings. It's like going into a European palace. It's impressive.

“;The Capitol is really a museum. I didn't realize it's a work of art itself,”; she continues. “;It embodies our history ... and art has a real role in telling the story of that history. It was impressive to see and be part of all that.”;

The significance of the loan isn't lost on Papanikolas, either.

“;It's such a great thing,”; she says. “;We have a president who was born and schooled here and a Hawaii senator of considerable power. To have our work be part of that is incredible exposure. We get to show people who might not come to Hawaii the incredible treasures that are here.”;