9 June, 2020
How do you tour an exhibition that includes precious costumes and objects?
First developed for exhibition at Arts Centre Melbourne in 2016, Kylie on Stage celebrated iconic moments from 12 of Kylie Minogue’s highly successful concert tours. Attracting over 250,000 visitors in Melbourne, the exhibition was drawn mainly from Kylie’s spectacular stage wardrobe held in the Australian Performing Arts Collection.
With support from Creative Victoria, the exhibition toured to four regional Victorian galleries and beyond to the Western Australian Museum – this exhibition had a long distance to travel! Across all five venues the tour reached another 70,000 visitors, more than half of these in regional Victoria.
Taking such an extensive exhibition of delicate costumes on tour required thorough planning and hundreds of hours of work from specialist staff – so what does this work entail?
Installation image of “Kylie on Stage” exhibition on display in Melbourne. Photo: Arts Centre Melbourne, 2016
To ensure protection and preservation of the costumes and objects throughout the tour, our Collections team put in place an extensive risk management and monitoring program. This involved assessing each venue, and mitigating against every possible risk from theft and vandalism to environmental factors, pests and fire.
The lengthy process of preparing and packing the costumes involved careful documentation of each object’s condition, creation of supports, and fitting out or building customised boxes to hold complex and delicate costumes such as spectacular headdresses. While travelling, objects are at risk of damage from a variety of sources – ranging from interaction with packing materials through to vibration during transport – so each one is carefully packed with conservation materials. The intricate construction of many of these costumes inspired clever solutions to protect delicate beading, diamantés and fabrics.
Shoes being photographed to record their condition during micro-fade testing
Shoes designed by Manolo Blahnik, worn by Kylie Minogue in Encore, “On A Night Like This” tour, 2000
The exhibition travelled between venues in climate controlled art freight trucks. When the exhibition toured to Fremantle, it was decided that a Collections staff member would escort the precious cargo during the five day road trip.
“Couriering collection objects can be highly stressful, having to make continuous risk assessments to ensure the safety of the objects, but it also has the benefit of taking you to places you might otherwise not have travelled.”
The work of installing the exhibition at different venues was the culmination of months of collaboration between Arts Centre Melbourne Collections staff and host venue teams. The combined team would take over a week to build and install the exhibition. Watch the time lapse video to see how this unfolds in minutes rather than days.
Time-lapse of Kylie on Stage exhibition installation
Carmela Lonetti (left) and Ari Hunter installing the Kylie on Stage Exhibition
Even once the items were on display, our team’s work was not done – a thorough monitoring program included condition checking and documentation of all items before and after the exhibition opened and closed at each venue.
Dust and pest traps were placed in discreet locations of the exhibition, light levels measured on each object and comparison images of items taken to determine any fading.
“Such practices not only help protect and preserve the collection for future generations but also inform the responsible access and use of items after long display periods.”
Curator Margot Anderson and Samantha Hamilton, Head of Collections, Preservation and Access condition report a costume before it is installed
Costume designed by Julien MacDonald, worn by Kylie Minogue in Opening Act “On A Night Like This” tour, 2000
Now that the exhibition has finished touring, Kylie’s costumes have been carefully condition checked and returned to safe storage within the Australian Performing Arts Collection archive.
Jenna Blyth, Registrar of Music and Art, Australian Performing Arts Collection
Emily Kocaj, Collections Programs and Engagement Manager, Australian Performing Arts Collection
Samantha Hamilton, Head, Collections, Preservation and Access, Arts Centre Melbourne