What happens when a forklift goes through your Picasso? By Andrew Dickson Early one morning last summer, I stood inside a museum in Antwerp and watched as a painting was hung on the wall. When I walked in, the gallery was empty. To one side, there was a crate about a metre square. Royal blue, it was unmarked apart from a code number and a yellow stencilled sign reading “Lato da Aprire / Open this Side”. Although its home is nominally Florence, the painting inside was a seasoned traveller: it had arrived the night before from Sicily, by road and under armed guard. The box looked entirely unremarkable. That was the point, I was told. Abruptly, there was a commotion: the curator of the exhibition, a visiting curator, a translator, an expert in Renaissance art, plus a clutch of hangers-on, burst through the doors. Two art handlers wearing gloves and sober expressions strode over to a table; on it, pliers, tape measures, and an electric screwdriver had been placed with a precision that would not have been out of place in an operating theatre.
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