Bridget Wingert: Happy to Be Here
Her Serene Highness is leaving us
The Grace Kelly exhibition at the Michener Art Museum comes down next week after three months of record-breaking attendance. It has been the biggest show in the museum’s 25-year history, attracting 10,000 visitors through its Doylestown doors.
The Bucks County museum was the only United States venue for “From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly, Beyond the Icon” and the first Grace Kelly exhibition in this country. It attracted visitors from around the country and especially from the Philadelphia area, where the quintessentially elegant movie star and princess, was born.
Museum Director Lisa Tremper Hanover has been making arrangements for shipment, negotiating prices to get precious gowns and papers home.
The contents of the show will leave the way they came from the McCord Museum in Montreal – by trucks operated by Cartgo Services Muséologiques, a Montreal company that specializes in moving textiles.
The Grimaldi Forum’s Christian Selvatico and Catherine Alestchenkoff handled the collection of letters and other documents for the display, and they are arriving now to reassemble their collection. Grace Kelly became a member of the Grimaldi family when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco.
“It’s been an extraordinary journey,” Hanover said as the show headed for its closing days. When another museum declined to take the exhibition after its Montreal showing, the Michener was able to fill an empty calendar slot. But it was close – less than a year for a major event that would usually be scheduled far in advance.
The staging was not as simple as moving pieces from building to building. All of those pieces had to be packed separately and the Michener had to get special permission to display some articles. The Hermes “Grace Kelly Bag” copyright had to be purchased and the museum had to pay to show photographs – like the transatlantic crossing for the royal wedding, with Kelly family and friends aboard
The clothing was displayed in glass cases in Montreal but new cases had to be designed and constructed for the Doylestown show. A company in Buffalo built those cases after exhibition designer Keith Ragone decided how the apparel would be placed.
Ragone created the flow of the exhibition. “We chose the colors, chose the quotes,” Hanover said. “We tried desperately to get the wedding dress from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The curator of textiles helped us tell the story with a few objects.” The gown was too fragile to handle.
Hanover and her staff also chose the images to be blown up on walls. And while the design decisions were being made, including lighting design and climate control, all of the promotional pieces and to be created and advertising arrangements had to be made.
For the month of October, the Michener was abuzz with preparations. The Kelly show closed Oct. 7 at the McCord Museum and took four days to ship. Michener staff began installation Oct. 13. The exhibition was in place for the opening gala, a formal dinner with Grace’s son, Prince Albert II and his wife, Charlene, in attendance. And for them, with Albert a head of state, the museum required special security arrangements. Susan Corbett, the Pennsylvania first lady, who also attended, came with a security staff.
The next day, the show opened with a brunch for members. It was followed by the public opening and constant activity through the holiday season. In January, there was such high demand for tickets that the museum opened at 10 a.m. on Sundays to accommodate all who wanted to see the show.
And now, we will lose the Princess Grace exhibit. We have seen rare glimpses of Dior and Helen Rose and Edith Head, in a wardrobe as an indicator of a woman’s impact.
The local show with a cosmopolitan flavor will be talked about for a long time in Bucks County.
Copyright ©2014 Bucks County Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.