Introduction: This article is particularly important I think, because it illustrates the kind of circumstances and situations so many of us have worked in, that tend to develop and hone the critical skill-set needed to really master our trade. The creativity needed to get things done when you have limited resources - utilizing a combination of a vision, a spirit of collaboration, effective communication, and some well chosen equipment - is the kind of thing that really defines success in the work we do. In my book this is the "real deal".
If your institution has the money to pay top dollar to hire a crew of art service providers to perform a task like this then that is great, but in many small and medium-sized institutions the money required might be better spent providing new and better equipment or even getting professional training when it is available.
As well they will have missed the opportunity to develop their in-house capacities by failing to address the challenge directly.
My hat is off to Bruce - acting here as a solo Prep along with a variety of collaborators, demonstrating the kind of safe and sound installation methodology that echoes approaches used by highly respected international institutions (like the National Gallery London whose sophisticated custom installation equipment PACCIN was thrilled be able to share at our first Preparators conference in 2009 courtesy of our colleague Mark Slattery) only at a very small fraction of the capital outlay. Our thanks to Bruce for a contribution that may prove useful to a wide variety of institutions out in the real world.
T. Ashley McGrew, PACCIN Publications Chair
Article by Bruce Bundock
In autumn of 2015, the collections management dept of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center of Vassar college was tasked with the installation of a painting by Lambert Sustris, a sixteenth century artist from the Netherlands. Having recently received conservation treatment, it was decided to elevate the painting nine feet off the floor with the viewer looking up at it from normal eye level. What made the task challenging were the dimensions of the work.In its frame, the painting was twelve feet long and six feet high, weighing approx 125 lbs.
It was to be installed on a gallery wall faced with 5/8 thick sheet rock, backed by 3/4 thick plywood attached to metal studs. As this particular gallery housed both permanent collection and loan works that were not to be moved, a strategy had to be devised that would allow the staff to safely move equipment into a compressed area, allowing the for a clean installation to take place.
Numerous discussions among the registrar and preparator resulted in a procedure that involved two SLA -15 genie lifts, one scissor lift, two 25 foot ladders and the co-ordination of the Loeb Art Center preparator, two Loeb Art Center security guards, and two campus carpenters, under the direction of the Loeb Art Center registrar.
Painting placed on pads. Leaned against wall.
Jig carefully placed in front of painting and painting being lifted into the jig. Straps were attached to the back of the frame to make lifting the painting easier.
Security guards slowly advancing the Genie lift forks into cavities at each end of the jig.
Jig directly under hanging hardware on wall. With ladders, lift forks, and scissor lift in place, ascent about to begin.
Ascent of painting. It was critical to have the guards work their respective lifts in tandem, one not going faster or slower than the other, until they reached the actual height.
Fastening painting to wall.
Once the actual hanging height was reached, the preparator loosened and removed the clamp that was holding the frame to the top of the jig. He slowly tipped the top of the frame toward the wall. The carpenters, each on their respective ladders, were then able to attach quick link rings from the hanging hardware on the back of the frame to the tarp hooks that were bolted into the wall. Once the rings were on, the security guards very slowly lowered the Genie lifts. Since the frame was now safely attached to the hooks on the wall but still at a slight angle, the jig continued to be lowered until the carpenters were able to gently advance the bottom to the frame to the support angle plates that were situated below the painting. The painting was now free from the jig and the jig was then lowered to the ground.
Wall side of jig
Wall hardware - Ledges
Wall hardware - Tarp hook with block