The assistant director of the National Gallery of Australia, Adam Worrall, has been designing exhibitions for 30 years. But his latest project involved borrowing jewels fit for a queen – literally
The National Gallery of Australia’s Adam Worrall on securing jewels fit for a queen.
The jewels in our new Cartier exhibition came from many places around the world. There were security logistics around moving jewellery that I never expected because I had never worked on an exhibition of this kind before. I can’t talk about these issues because they’re top secret. If I told you, you’d likely be able to spot somebody on a plane and know they’re carrying a bag full of $30 million in jewellery.
I can tell you that there are security escorts for the courier (the person transporting the items) along every single step of the way. From the moment the courier leaves the museums or private residences, to the airport, through customs and immigration, until they get on the plane, there is security personnel. It’s just like having a child; you’ve got to keep an eye on them at all times. The security will see that the bag with the jewellery gets put into an overhead locker, and observe the locker being locked. The security does not leave until the last door of the plane is ready to be closed, and airline staff won’t open the door at the next destination until security is standing outside the door of that plane.
It is a very tight operation. These are millions of dollars worth of items we’re talking about. People always ask me if something has ever gotten stolen or lost in transit – the answer is “No.” Fingers crossed. Trust is a big part of how these exhibitions come together. We asked for items that have never been loaned to Cartier exhibitions before, and were amazed by the number of people who said “Yes.” Cartier has also been impressed by the jewels we’ve managed to secure for this show.
One of the highlights is the Queen’s exclusive loan to us. We wrote a letter to her, which was delivered by the keeper of the Queen’s collection, and received word that she had worked out what jewellery she would be wearing between May and September of this year, and so she generously agreed to loan items to us.
The Queen has chosen items from her personal collection that we asked for, but also things that have an attachment to Australia. She has worn the Williamson brooch (with the pink diamond) to Australia a number of times. We’re particularly excited to have the Cartier Halo tiara loaned by the Queen to the Duchess of Cambridge for her to wear on her wedding day in 2011 [pictured]. Cartier: The Exhibition runs until July 22; tickets start at $20 from nga.gov.au.