A LACMA Star Takes Center Stage

August 6, 2009

LACMA’s famed Ardabil carpet goes on view in November, and in preparation for the special installation it had its portrait taken last week. Unlike smaller objects that can be shot in the photo studio on site, the sprawling Ardabil (282 x 156 in.) requires a lot of space and, in particular, high ceilings in order to be photographed in its entirety.

First, LACMA staff considered unrolling the carpet outside on our plaza; however, the notorious Los Angeles air quality kept conservators from moving forward with that approach. As they told me during the photo shoot, particulate matter in our dirty air is so damaging to textiles that it has a sandpaper effect on fibers. So, on to Plan B—the LACMA team opted to unroll the carpet on the stage of the Bing Theater. (It’s the first photo shoot of this kind in the Bing; the last time the carpet was shot, nearly ten years ago, it was photographed in the Ahmanson Building’s atrium, now occupied by Tony Smith’s Smoke.)

It really felt like a performance was taking place—the lights were up and a troupe of art handlers took the stage with photographers waiting in the wings for their cue. Many theater seats were taken as the curator, conservator, collections manager, engineering team, and others watched the process quite literally unfurl. When it’s on view later this fall, the Ardabil carpet will have to share the spotlight, though with just one other object—the museum’s other key Persian carpet, the Coronation carpet.

Stage is set
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Stage is set

Camera is installed with lights
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Camera is installed with lights

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Camera adjusted by Peter Brenner and Steve Oliver

Steve Oliver takes light meter reading
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Steve Oliver takes light meter reading

API staff: Edwin Menendez, Jon Aley, and David Parker bring in Ardabil
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API staff: Edwin Menendez, Jon Aley, and David Parker bring in Ardabil

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API, Conservation, and Collections Management begin to unroll the carpet

API and Conservation unroll the last few feet of the Ardabil
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API and Conservation unroll the last few feet

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Steve Oliver takes photos

Steve Oliver takes photos
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Steve Oliver takes photos

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Photographers discuss photos

PI, Conservation, and Collections Management begin to re-roll Ardabil
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API, Conservation, and Collections Management begin to re-roll Ardabil

Allison Agsten