Hanging days always start with everybody looking like they stayed up all night. Vacant stares, aimless gestures, slow spinning in circles looking at the blank walls. But these folks are total professionals and artists, and their minds are busy doing what they do best, which is to take three rooms of very disparate artwork and turn it into an intelligent and thoughtful placement so that no visitor will miss any detail. At times there were lengthy discussions about where a painting could be seen to best advantage.
At this point, in the large back gallery, Jennifer, Sally and Anthony wait for clarity. Jennifer is leaning on a freshly painted pedestal that will hold one of the sculptures. Anthony is responsible for all the painted pedestals, and for the precise placement of the wallcards next to each picture (later on).
In the small back gallery, Sally and Jennifer ponder where to put everything to best advantage. Jennifer calls Terri in to help.
Cat, taking a break from wordsmithing all the descriptions you’ll see in the show, takes a break while Terri measures the painting and Jennifer works the program to tell them how far and what height to put the nail. Unfortunately, my hanging conventions and theirs don’t really mesh, so there was a lot of remeasuring and eyeballing also going on.
The tools of the trade for modern museum curation. calculator, paper, spreadsheet, drill.
Jennifer, Cat and Terri perparing to mark the wall for the painting’s nail and hang the painting.
here’s the small back gallery all beautiful and awaiting wallcards. The bronze is awaiting its plinth, so it’s still on a dolly.
As soon as one thing is settled, it’s on to the next. In the large back gallery, they have decided that they don’t need three fish paintings on one wall. The smaller ones just distract from the main one in the middle. Here Terri and Jennifer examine one of the boxes of butterfly paintings that are going to go on separate pedestals on either side of the big fish painting.
They wanted to tilt the box up slightly, for ease of viewing. But the lids aren’t meant to stay open at that angle, so I had to go to the local hardware store and buy some stiff wire to prop the lids with. The wire had to be measured, straightened, and painted black, which I let my assistant do, as my attention was constantly being required elsewhere.
In this case, I needed to go around for a final look at all the frames, to see what needed touching up. There were a lot of dings, which always happens when you move paintings, whether you’re careful or not. But just imagine if artwork didn’t have frames. The dings would be on the painting instead.
After they decided to clear out the space around the big fish painting and put in the butterfly boxes, they still had to hang the painting, which is 100 inches long. This meant measuring the whole wall and centering the painting on it. Terri holds the tape measure while Jennifer marks the wall.
One of the other fish paintings was moved to the back wall, where Sally and Anthony are feeling for the nail to hang the wire on, and the other one went back home with me.
The biggest issue of the day was the Jeanne d’Arc triptych. It’s a very heavy set of three paintings, and I usually hang it by individual hanging loops attached to each side, suspended from a ceiling picture rail that I have in my house. But at the museum, they like to hang everything from the center, balanced on a side-to-side wire hung over a nail. And the problem with this painting was that the wire was too thin, and kept snapping. We finally had to rewire the backs of all three paintings in order to get them to stay on the wall, and then the wires stretched to different lengths depending on the weight on them, and the pictures refused to hang even with one another. It took a lot of fussing and frustration, but Sally, who worked to hang it, kept taking them down and adjusting the wires and then putting them up again. And they look wonderful now.
It was such a difficult hang partly because we had to cover a service panel with the right wing of the triptych, and it’s no joke putting nails into hatch doors.
Near the end, the whole thing became coordinated like a dance, with everybody doing their individual tasks in various parts of the gallery. It was exhausting just to see them flow around each other, their minds on their work. In the end, I think we were all exhausted.
Finally it was almost done. All the pictures were on the walls, a nd most of the statues were in place. The ones you can see on the table in the middle ground have yet to be placed on their plinth, and the central figure needed a better, less wobbly base, so I took her home to repair, and will take her back in the morning when I go in with some raw umber to repair some frames I couldn’t get to yesterday (because I didn’t have any raw umber).
I don’t look exhausted, but I am leaning against a wall. Good thing I brought a sandwich. My studio assistant wasn’t quite as forward looking, and figured on a lunch break.
After it was all done for the day, my assistant loaded up the trucklet with all the rejected paintings, including some that it was just too bad we had to disinclude. The bishop didn’t fit, and has to come back with me tomorrow.
At the last minute, they asked me if I had another small painting to go over the miniature case in the front gallery. What was there wasn’t working, a small encaustic and an etching. And of course I have lots of other small paintings, but I picked this one because it’s one of my favorite small paintings, and epitomises my fascination with the Venice Carnival. It’s called Portrait of a Mask, and I love the absurdity of the title, because of course all you see of the person underneath are the eyes, and they could be male or female. This painting is the last addition to the show, and it’s now ready to be finalized.
The show opens next Saturday, January the 12th, from 6-8 pm at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, 50 Atlanta St, Marietta. I hope to see you there.
The wire had to be measured, straightened, and painted black, which I let my assistant do, as my attention was constantly being required elsewhere.