Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hitting the Nail on the Head

In my past posts, I've referred more than once to "Preparators" or "Prep crew." But who are these white-gloved-clad unsung heroes of the museum world?

If the Curators are the idea people and Registrars help to make those ideas a physical reality, then the Preparators are the folks who implement those ideas to become the actual show visitors see on our walls. They paint and light the galleries. They build the pedestals and mounts. They mat and frame the artwork. They load and offload the crates on the trucks, not easy when you don't have a proper loading dock (see right). They pack and unpack the artwork (see below), or bring it from storage, and hang it on the walls. And, at the Addison, they do double-duty as Collection Managers and are responsible, with the Registrars, for the proper storage and movement of the artwork throughout the museum. The Addison has three Preparators on staff and bring in more help during the chaotic exhibition change period.

The Addison's galleries are completely reinstalled every three to four months. This is no easy feat for our Preparators to accomplish in the condensed two to three week period between exhibition closings and openings. Installing artwork is not as simple as just hitting nails on their heads, though the heads of 5484 nails were hit during the installation of our Jennifer Bartlett: Early Plate Work show. Cranking the formulas required to double-hang twenty different objects of varying height and widths at the same horizontal mid-point on the wall is enough to drive the best mathematician crazy. Coordinating the various lifts and cranes to move a 3000 pound fragile sculpture carefully two feet to the left requires perfect art handling skills and an intimate knowledge of physics. And painting the acres of walls in our Kemper Gallery, as anyone who has tried painting a light color over a dark one can attest, can be a challenge, especially at the heartbreaking point when you realize it is going to need that third coat to look completely even.

Speaking of painting walls, two Addison Preparators recently traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to implement one of the Addison's Sol LeWitt wall drawings (#716) in the US Embassy (see right). This took several days to accomplish with very skilled hands and the result was amazing. If you ever happen to be there, make a point to stop in and check it out.

So the next time you visit the Addison and see our Preparators carefully transporting a painting through the galleries on their carpeted green cart, shake their white gloved hands and congratulate them for the jobs they do. Without them, the gallery walls would be terribly empty!

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