I stood in the gallery, bent over backwards staring up blankly into my 50-foot ceiling, trying to assess the durability of my lighting tracks.
“How the hell am I going to suspend an 8-foot winged sculpture from up there?! Fairy dust?”
If that had been my only concern with this exhibition, my nerves would have been easily quelled with one stiff drink and a reassuring “no problem, boss” from my assistant. But no, the weighty sculpture flying 30 feet over the heads of visitors from uncertain supports was, believe it or not, the least of my worries.
I looked down at my floor plan. Up at my ceiling. Back at my floor plan. I spun around the gallery, mentally measuring the walls and open space, counting the number of works I had selected. I had 5 installation days ahead of me and at this point, all I could do is hope that it would all come neatly and elegantly together.
It’s a rare moment when life hands you the opportunity you’ve always wanted. Rarer when you’re young and relatively new to the big leagues. It’s your moment to turn into your greatest success or to fall, face first, into the pile of shit you’ve dug-up along the way.
When I was handed the curatorial reins of our gallery’s biggest exhibition of the season, I realized this was that opportunity for me. And it was giving me heart palpitations.
Our PR department had confirmed an interview with and a feature in the New York Times. No. Pressure.
Being 26 and standing at the helm of what was already being heralded as a landmark exhibition is daunting. Youth grants me energy. Passion mandates confidence. But youth, energy, passion and confidence doesn’t guarantee success — just sleepless nights and aching muscles.
“I don’t understand why I’m talking to you,” the writer from the Time said to me as I sat down with her the hour before the opening. “I was expecting to speak with the curators.”
“I am the curator.”
My youth belied my position of authority. An hour later, my boss popped in to see how things were going on our walk through of the show.
“This is a fabulous exhibition! I’m having a great time!”
Could it be that I had just won over the New York Times?
At 6PM, only minutes after the final wall label had gone up on the wall, the doors swung open, a crowd poured in and the champagne bottles were popped. I can’t exactly tell you what happened over the next two hours — it was a whirlwind of hellos, of press interviews, of congratulations.
I imagine the way I felt is very much how a bride feels on her wedding day: exhausted from all the planning and preparations, unsure of the durability of her lipstick and full-body-ness of her hair, but excited because she knows she’s just launched herself happily head-long into a brand new life.