Head Technician, Tate Britain
Mikei has been in charge of installing every exhibition at Tate Britain for the past 17 years. He oversees the planning of the exhibitions and the hanging of work, and has worked with hundreds of major artists, in exhibitions seen by millions.
What made you want to go into your career path?
My career path changed from my original desire to be a furniture maker - I’ve always been very creative use of my hands, ideas and my love for art and design.
Originally I started with being a furniture designer, but that didn’t go the way I wanted because when I applied to colleges, I didn’t have enough practical experience with materials. So I was encouraged to do an interior design course and I went on to work for design company - I also did a foundation in art, and went on to work in an art studio which involved some fabrication, and then that led to the Tate which seems to be the culmination of all the things I was interested in. Plus I found it a challenging environment that inspired me.
Did you always think you’d go into this career? How does it compare to how you thought it would be?
My career in art handling and working at the Tate was at that point something I'd never known about. But it made up my criteria for something that was a challenge, being able to use the technical and practical skills as well as creative ideas. Being in an environment working with artists and the many technical challenges - I found it very inspiring.
How was life at school?
I really did enjoy school. I went to Hampstead comprehensive school which I really enjoyed, but found it difficult at times because I’m dyslexic. 40 years ago there wasn’t the understanding and knowledge around this disease, and I found it very difficult.
It did restrict my ability but I now realise it heightened my creativity and technical sense. I have a very good mathematical brain, well above average, which compensates in some ways.
That said I had a woodwork teacher who did inspire me to go to college and I’ll always be grateful for that because he showed me that I had abilities that were valuable.
How did you get into your career?
Having worked in an art studio, I got involved in fabrication and started to work with lesser-known artists who were impressed with my knowledge and techniques. A job came up at the Tate and I was encouraged to apply which I was not very keen on as Tate did not have a reputation for working with people of colour. But I applied anyway thinking it would be something I could add to my CV. I did very well at the interview and it seems that they took a chance on me and the rest is history.
I have seen very good positive change in the culture and the way Tate is now as an organisation that's more inclusive - it’s more diverse and it is definitely moving towards the future.
What do you enjoy most about it?
I very much enjoy the challenge of my job, working with creative people to create something unique and special. Problem-solving and making what seems impossible possible, and the end result is always very pleasing, but the job is inspiring as well because it keeps challenging me and keeps forcing me to learn and to grow.
I was asked what it’s like to be an expert! I replied that I do not see myself as an expert, but see myself as a specialist, because I’m always learning and every day is a new chance to learn.
What are your ambitions?
My future ambitions are to write a training manuals for a guide to art handling based around my own experiences, passing on some of the knowledge I have gained. I'd like to do training and consult, to pass on some of the knowledge I have.
Tell us a fun story about your work
Oh cripes - it's hard to think of just one. I currently am collaborating closely with Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark for a ballet in Copenhagen - there is lots of royal protocol which give plenty of opportunity for mischief! Lots of theatre stories are better told face to face, especially if they are about naughty actors, singers and dancers!