Terry Smith - Capital, 1995 British Museum, London - 5000 Square Feet
"After making two wall cuttings at the Adam Gallery, Calum Storrie who was chief designer at the British Museum invited me to make a project at the Museum. It became clear from the start that it would be impossible to get official permission to get an artist into the building and begin cutting into the walls. So with the help of James Putnam we decided to make an unofficial intervention. I would turn up everyday with my tools, ask to be let in by the security guards and then I began to work. I asked for a scaffold tower which arrived and everything I asked for was provided. Everyone assumed that I must be official and no one questioned my presence.
The project was also supported by the Museum of Installation. I needed easy access back and forth, so the doors of room 49 were opened and a rope deterred visitors. I was photographed by hundreds of Japanese tourists. The press came, I was interviewed on the radio and then director found out and was not happy. But there was nothing on paper so there was no one to blame. He tried to stop the project but eventually he realised it was not worth the negative publicity, so I was ignored instead. Below on the right are images of some preliminary drawings on napkins of ionic capitals, the process of Capital being created and photographs showing the plaster removal of room 49 and floor construction ready for redecoration. This was the first major museum intervention and it set in motion a number of actions, situations that would reoccur in many of my interventions in institutions to follow. The main aspect for me is that relationships with institutions tend to be problematic. When i am in a work mode I tend to very focused and I guess that means that I can be perhaps be demanding. I dont recognise this when it happens but it happens enough times for me to notice a trend. I think it is something many artists have to deal with, if your work is exact and you spend time and energy trying to get it right its annoying when you come up against procedures that don’t match up."