The Incredibles

Clockwise from upper left: Bill Koberg preparing to de-install Bala, November 2011; Alec MacKaye and Shelly Wischhusen roll up a painting off the stretcher; preparators' tools; a gallery closed for installation; Bill and Alec installing Leo Villareal's light work, Scramble, March 2012. Photos: Sarah Osborne Bender

The single most important part of a museum that’s probably unknown to visitors is the art preparator (or handler). And art preparators are museum superheroes. Without them, permanent collections would hang in the same place year after year, loan exhibitions would lean propped on the floor, and storage areas would be jungles of spiderwebs and unseen art. We know our preparators are awesome, but in the month of May, Bill Koberg, Shelly Wischhusen, and Alec MacKaye (with the help of three contract preparators: Tom Bunnell, Tad Thomas, and Marley Dawson) have performed feats of inhuman ability. Are they cyborgs, programed to install and de-install round the clock and right on the nose? Check out some of the statistics:

De-installed works in Snapshot: 295

Room-sized, site-specific works de-installed: 3

Room-sized, site-specific works installed: 1

Extra-large paintings moved in and out of storage: 3

Works installed in two exhibitions, opening concurrently: 181

Permanent collection items installed or moved: 98

All in all, nearly 600 works have come in, gone out, gone up, and come down in the last month in our small museum. Bill, Shelly, Alec, take a bow (and a vacation).

Phillips Flashback: May 28, 1950

Edvard Munch installed in the Main Gallery, 1950

Edvard Munch installed in the Main Gallery, 1950. Photo: Phillips Collection Archives

On May 28, 1950, a show by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, little known in the United States, opens at the Phillips Gallery. The show features 171 oil paintings and the catalogue is the first substantial English publication on the artist.

Edvard Munch in Gallery D, 1950

Edvard Munch in Gallery D, 1950. Photo: Phillips Collection Archives

Happy Birthday Jasper Johns

Today is Jasper Johns’s 82nd birthday. We will welcome Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme opening June 2. The show will feature many works published by, and some on loan from, Universal Limited Art Editions. The image at right below, from ULAE’s photo archives, shows Johns working there in 1966.

(left) Jasper Johns, 1960s. Photo by Ugo Mulas from his book New York: The New Art Scene. New York: Holt, Rinehardt and Winston, 1967. (right) Jasper Johns and printer Ben Berns working on Two Maps I at United Limited Artist Editions, 1966. Photograph by Ugo Mulas from ULAE website.

(left) Jasper Johns, 1960s. Photo by Ugo Mulas from his book New York: The New Art Scene. New York: Holt, Rinehardt and Winston, 1967. (right) Jasper Johns and printer Ben Berns working on Two Maps I at Universal Limited Art Editions, 1966. Photograph by Ugo Mulas from ULAE website.

Seeing a thing can sometimes trigger the mind to  make another thing. In some instances the work may include as a sort of subject matter references to the thing that was seen.

-Jasper Johns to Richard Francis, 1982