The Missing Peace in Sibiu

Dear all,

It is a miracle that The Missing Peace happened at all in Sibiu. A couple weeks before we were scheduled to go on our trip, we got an email from Darlene Markovich, one of the organizers of the exhibition, that the director of the Contemporary Art section of the Brukenthal Museum had suddenly and inexplicably gotten cold feet. He wouldn't talk to his own curators about it, he wouldn't talk to Darlene, he wouldn't sign any papers. Of course, the art was already shipped at great expense, and everyone who was planning to go already had their tickets and other reservations. We decided we were going anyway, as all plans were made and we were excited to see Romania.

None of us could understand what had happened with the formerly very enthusiastic director, had he lost his mind? had a very large and powerful government put pressure on him in Sibiu, Romania from all the way across the world? What was going on?

The ferula of the Evangelical Church in Sibiu; Lewis deSoto's reclining Buddha "Parinirvana" Don and my tapestry "Dharmakaya" and William Wiley's "Serpent Frightened by Abstraction." The Romanians have hung valuable Middle Eastern carpets in this manner in their churches for centuries

We had invited a Prof. Kessler, a Romanian art professor and curator who was visiting the Bay Area, to come to Magnolia and meet some of the Bay Area artists involved in The Missing Peace. It turned out Prof. Kessler was very well connected; he is a member of the Romanian Institute of Culture, a govt. post. Darlene contacted him, he knew all the personalities involved, and all the labyrinthine relationships. He said let me give it some thought as to the best approach. Prof. Kessler advised Darlene to go to the head of the Evangelical Church in Sibiu, Killian Doerr. The Evangelical Church owns the Brukenthal Museums; we found out only since the last 5 years. Darlene contacted Killian Doerr, the head priest, and said he could not be more helpful. He was going to make room in the Old Masters part of the museum and the Church so that the show could go on. So when we all met at Magnolia, it was a celebratory dinner. I was expecting a gray beard, but Erwin Kessler is youngish (looks early forties) and energetic. Many thanks to Maria Coffino who was hosting Prof. Kessler in SF and helped put everybody in touch with each other.

Kids fascinated by the Ryuichi Sakamoto and Fernando Aponte sound piece, where the music creates patterns in the sand. In the crowd: Tenzin, Era and Fernando.

So that was about 2 weeks before we were to leave. While we were on the road, I think while we were in Venice, we got an email from Michelle Townsend, the person who basically makes the exhibitions happen at the various venues. The pieces for the show, which had been shipped by an art shipper, were on a ship which had gone to Haifa, Israel first and were stuck there. Michelle had been doing everything she could from the Bay Area, but was basically pulling her hair out in frustration. While we were eating our pasta and sipping our wine in Venice, then relaxing in our beautiful apartment in Budapest, we would get email updates: the ship left on the last possible day from Haifa and was chugging its way across the eastern half of the Mediterranean and up through the Black Sea. The ship was going to dock in Costanta, Romania's port on the Black Sea, and they were going to drive across Romania (no small feat) and walk everything through customs. If necessary, could we help with installation. We said sure, anything we could do.

Don't remember all these artists, but that is Chuck Close's portrait of the Dalai Lama in a very large room at the Brukenthal Museum, Sibiu, Romania. This is before the opening.

It turns out that Michelle, Anca, a young curator from the Brukenthal, and a young employee of the museum drove all day and night over Romanian roads, which can be grueling in the best of circumstances. There were many complications, because of the change in sponsorship, different special licenses for this and that. In Michelle's words:

But wait, there's more.  Anca and I will leave Sibiu at midnight (this is the movie part--feels like we are in some film noir caper), in order to meet our Kunsttrans agent in Bucharest at *cough* 4:30 in the morning, and arrive at the customs office first thing.  Fortunately, we are being driven, so neither of us will be behind the wheel.  Anca's mother is making us sandwiches.  I am bringing Red Bull for the driver.  If all goes well, we get our official benediction, then the truck leaves.

Nope.  Not done yet--the Piata Mare is inaccessible to vehicle traffic.  In order to get the truck into the Piata, we need a special permit, which takes a day to get.  Once we know if the truck is coming, Anca calls her colleague Liviana, who then persuades local officials (their good friend the mayor, is unfortunately, out of town) to let our truck through.

Rupert Garcia's mixed media painting "Abu Ghraib" to the right; the room was still being installed.

After driving Romanian roads, there is no way that I would want to drive them at night: insane drivers, narrow roads, potholes, and very deep open trenches on the sides of the road. And speaking of inaccessible to vehicle traffic in the Piata Mare, which is the main square in Sibiu, Bucharest itself is almost inaccessible to vehicle traffic, but maybe at 4:30 in the morning it's better. More Michelle in a later email:

Just wanted to let you all know that through a mix of tenacity and divine intervention, we cleared customs yesterday afternoon and were able to bypass a queue of about 250 trucks waiting for clearance.  We made it back to Sibiu at 1:30AM, exactly 25.5 hours after we left.  More on this adventure in another message.  Our crates arrived in excellent condition at the museum this morning, and we began unloading at 7:30.  Just had a break for Austrian kaffee mit schlag and fabulous chocolate cake, made by Anca's mother.

Adam Fuss image of a Chrysallis looks fantastic against that red brocade.

Then these amazing people installed day and night, getting the show up in I think a matter of a couple days. Maybe Michelle can correct me if I'm wrong. So that when we arrived in Sibiu there was nothing for us to do, except take photos.

Speaking of arriving in Sibiu; Sibiu is a far larger city that Sighisoara. It was raining, lots of traffic, signs which seemed to point in contradictory directions. With no language skills, we finally managed to make our way into the old, medieval part of the city and found the only parking place. Don stayed with the luggage and I ventured out to try to find either our hotel or Tourist Info. I walked up an old stone walking street, into a plaza, and right into Michelle, Ron Haak and Fernando. That itself was a minor miracle, as they had all been madly installing inside the museum and were rushing back to the museum after a hurried lunch. Ron (with more on his plate than could be imagined) took the time to find us permanent parking, walk us to our hotel and get us settled in.

Squeak Carnwath's painting and a photo from the Starn twins in a little jewel box of a room at the Brukenthal.

The opening ceremonies for The Missing Peace exhibition were in the ferula of the huge Evangelical Church which is in the middle of Sibiu. Killian Doerr, who is the head priest and an amazing man, rang a Tibetan bowl (by rubbing a sort of stick around the circular rim) in between each speaker. The work looked great; that which was able to be installed. Unfortunately, there was not room enough to install some excellent pieces. The exhibition did not have the impact of seeing it all together as Randy had originally planned, but it was amazing to see the works installed in these centuries-old, elegant venues.

Killian Doerr speaking, Tenzin, Darlene, Michelle, Anca and others in front. Many more attendees in back with us.

Era and Killion (un-Photoshopped!). Killion Doerr is head of the Evangelical Church in Sibiu, and rumors are he may be made bishop some day. He's a great guy. This was before all the celebratory parties - afraid I've gained most of my weight back.