If a public institution is like a city, its preparators are like its water supply; they keep it running smoothly, and if they’re doing their jobs properly you’re not even aware of their existence.

There is a lot of work that goes into mounting an exhibition, between selecting the artists (curation), taking care of the works (conservation) and making sure that a public attends the show (communications). But for the work to be brought into the gallery for exhibition, to be kept safe, and to be seen in its best light, it must be handled, installed, and mounted skillfully. This is the role of the preparator.

A gallery  preparatorAmong those people in art careers, an art museum preparator performs or supervises the performance of duties involving the handling of art objects for a variety of purposes including exhibitions, research and teaching, and assists curators in the maintenance of collections. (Artlex.com)  is responsible for removing artworks from the crates in which they were delivered, hanging paintings on the walls, mounting sculptures on plinths, and also for configuring the components of more complex installations, so the  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  reflects the artist's expectations, yet stays within the gallery’s guidelines. Preparators often have a background in the arts, usually in a technical discipline (for example a  craftThe production of work involving the use of skilled hands.  discipline, or a material one like theatre set design); they are skilled at caring for work and at taking care while handling it. Preparators are also required to have a facility with materials and paint; when a  curatorAn individual or group, who conceives an idea for an art exhibition, selects the art works, plans how they will be displayed and writes accompanying supporting materials for the ideas presented. A curator can work freelance or be affiliated with a gallery, and serves as the link between artists and gallery.  or an artist needs a particular gallery setup for an exhibition, it is up to the preparators to build such an environment into the existing space.

Increasingly, preparators are called upon to be skilled in  digitalA system of representing images or objects through numbers. These numbers can then be re-interpreted by another digital system to generate light and sound.  technology. As more artists incorporate sensors, video projection, computerized motors and audio into their  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  works, the preparators need to be able to install and configure these  digitalA system of representing images or objects through numbers. These numbers can then be re-interpreted by another digital system to generate light and sound.  electronic components so that the artwork is experienced as it was meant to be. Preparators' skills in this area are invaluable, especially when the artist who created the work is unavailable to install it. In times like these, the  preparatorAmong those people in art careers, an art museum preparator performs or supervises the performance of duties involving the handling of art objects for a variety of purposes including exhibitions, research and teaching, and assists curators in the maintenance of collections. (Artlex.com)  must be a  digitalA system of representing images or objects through numbers. These numbers can then be re-interpreted by another digital system to generate light and sound.  troubleshooter as well as a physical problem-solver.

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Eve Kotyk - What Does a Collections Manager Do?
Things To Think About
  • See if you can identify the challenges that might be presented to a preparator whose job it is to combine multiple media works (using video and sound) in a single space. Might the works have an effect on each other in ways that paintings and sculptures don’t? How? You can research this by visiting an exhibition of media artwork and thinking about how the pieces are spaced, located, isolated, etc.
Online Activity
Studio Activity

Have eight of your fellow students or friends submit a  two-dimensionalHaving height and width, but no depth; flat. (Artlex.com)  art work for display. With permission, plan and install all the artwork in your school hallway or in an available room or gallery.

See the following web sites for information on hanging art work:

Studio Activity

Create a case in which to carry a three-dimensional object of sentimental  valueThe lightness or darkness of a colour.  such as a trophy, an old toy or electronics.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning