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Exhibition Development

In Paris, Béatrix Saule, the exhibitions curator and Director of the National Museum of the Palace and I worked together to confirm the exhibitions themes and the selection of works. I then took the lead on grouping the works for the exhibitions design. While at Versailles, I also carried out a quick condition check of each work, reviewed Versailles stock of packing crates and commissioned the alterations needed on the existing crates; plus the construction of many new rates and for the packing of all the works in preparation for their freight to Canberra.

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Gaspard and Balthazard Marsy's monumental Carrara marble sculpture of Latona and her children 1668-70 was the centrepiece of Versailles main fountain for 350 years.

Here, she has just completed over 2 years of restoration, cleaning and conservation treatment and is waiting in storage. When her crate is completed, she will be safely packed and leave Versailles for the first time in her 350 year history

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The Sourches family painting in storage at Versailles, in its original frame 

The specially designed crate which fitted into one pallet space in an airline freighter

The Sourches family painting installed in Canberra, in its temporary frame

When finalising the checklist, one significant work was available for loan, but only if we could get it onto an aircraft as Versailles had been told that it could not travel by air, as it was over-size. Working with the Versailles Conservator, we confirmed that after some basic surface consolidation, the work would be safe to travel to Australia. He also agreed that the painting could travel without its frame and be installed in a temporary frame made by the NGA. With exact dimensions for the unframed stretcher and with the help of friends at Qantas Freight, we determined that if the work could be packed and crated on an angle, it would fit through the air freighter door. I commissioned a new crate to be constructed in Paris, and the painting of The Sourches family left Europe for the first time since it was created in 1756.

Unpacking a Rococo armchair, created by Nicolas Heurtaut in 1745 for Madame de Pompadour, chief mistress to Louis XV, for her residence at Crécy

Exhibition Design

I grouped the works for display as if you were being taken on a private tour through the Palace and gardens, ending at the Petite Trianon. Encountering each King, Queen, mistress and major artist and craftsman as you progressed through the exhibition.


As there were eight distinct themes in the exhibition, we agreed that each section should have a slightly different design treatment. Many sections also contained multiple objects, needing showcase designs, armatures, display supports, and having varied, specific security and lighting requirements. Daryl West Moore and I split show into two sections and worked together on the design and documentation of the exhibition.

I wanted to bring to life the extraordinary history of one of the world’s most opulent palaces, so we made reference to the architecture and style of Versailles where it was appropriate.

The room colours were taken from the original historic fabrics used on the walls in Versailles and while we could never reproduce the opulence and scale of the Hall of Mirrors, we did replicate the mirror treatment in one gallery that displayed its large tapestries and carpets.

The 1.5 tonne marble statue of Latona and her children, was to be a highlight in the centre of the exhibition. But removed from its spectacular location and without the splashing water, it lost some of its grandeur. While at Versailles we filmed close-up details of Latona's fountain and recorded its sound - transforming them into a 180 degree digital video montage and soundscape that surrounded Latona and her children - creating a sense of movement with splashing water, and the visual sensation of the flowing fountain.

We engaged international award-winning performer Tina Arena as official Ambassador for the Versailles exhibition, bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for all things French and Australian to the project

We also arranged collaborations with specialist partners to recreate the scent and sounds of Versailles, and provide an entry to the NGA, inspired by the grand gardens of Château de Versailles.

The Scent of Versailles

While in Paris to finalise the checklist and themes, I met the Master French perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, who had studied the history of Versailles. After showing him a first draft of the exhibition’s design, Francis offered to create a fragrance–inspired by Louis XIV and the herbs and fruit that he burned in the Palace–to scent our special exhibition foyer. Francis travelled to Australia for the exhibitions launch and both he and his orange blossom fragrance were an outstanding success with the media and our exhibition visitors.

Versailles Avenue of Trees 

Celebrity gardener Paul Bangay, an expert in the history and design of Versailles’ gardens, offered to design an avenue of trees in planters in the style of Versailles grand gardens for the NGA. Paul provided a design which included large bronze ornate Versailles style urns; huge square timber planter boxes full of Phoenix palms; four 16 meter long planters containing  mature 4.7m high Papyrus trees; and low height ornate shaped lawn planters that spread across the NGA's forecourt .

 Music of Versailles

Versailles was often filled with music, not only in the palace, but also in the gardens and at the Petite Trianon. Since court music was an essential part of daily life, with the Kings’ patronage supporting many composers and musicians, we introduced a musical soundscape in two rooms of the exhibition. 


ABC Classic helped select two pieces in the Baroque style of the French Court, that reflected a sense of movement, grandeur and occasion for the gallery displaying Louis XIV's focus on French art and culture. 


In the final gallery we played compositions by Queen Marie-Antoinette and Philippe-Jacques Meyer, with Marie-Antoinette’s harp, paintings and personal items on display from the Petite Trianon. ABC Classic also produced the exhibition soundtrack Versailles: Music from the Palace that was available as a musical audio tour, as a CD in ABC Store's or for download.

Versailles Play Space

Working with the NGA's educators, I designed a family activity space inspired by the Versailles exhibition. It included sculpting animals from French Fables to add to the fountain, building a grand garden, making chandeliers in the hall of mirrors and dressing up in costumes based on figures in the exhibition and then making your own self portrait.

Exhibition Project Manager

As Exhibition Project Manager and Assistant Director, Exhibitions and Collections, I held responsibility for the development and delivery of the Versailles exhibition. My role included exhibition concept discussions in Versailles, preparing and presenting the exhibitions business case (worst case, break even and best case scenarios), the development and management of revenue budget lines, including attendance projections, ticket prices and ticket sales, audio tours, and exhibition shop revenue and sponsorship targets.

Plus budget lines for expenditure allocations; including crating, packing, freight, insurance and couriers; the marketing and exhibition opening budget allocations; the installation, construction and fit out of the exhibition space; education and public programs; commercial shop stock expenses; writers fees and catalogue production expenses; salaries for contract security, front of house hosts, ticketing staff and shop staff and for travel.

I undertook all the contract negotiations, including the exhibition fee and contract conditions and secured Australian Government International Exhibitions Insurance grant funding and ACT Government funding from Canberra Tourism.


Versailles: Treasures from the Palace closed on 17 April after 130 days with an attendance of 190,128 visitors, meeting my projected visitation and revenue targets. The exhibition drove recreational and education tourism with 70% of visitors coming from outside the ACT and more than 250 school groups visiting the show in just 8 weeks.

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