Ever Wondered What it Takes to Hang a Big Exhibition? (RISE)

This past Saturday I was in Seattle helping to hang the RISE exhibition (open now through May 20th, 2010) .  Hanging a show of this size was a huge learning experience – exponentially more work than a show with half the amount of pieces hung late last year.  I thought I would share what it takes with you so you could get a flavor of what goes into preparing a large-scale show for opening.

This is basically what the hanging crew walked into on Saturday morning (the walls had been repainted and the artwork was leaning against them):

RISE exhibition space at the Seattle Design Center - before

The space is huge, around 3,000 square feet – less than 1/3 of which is seen in the photo above (that is almost 3 times bigger than my house!).  The challenge was to take a wide variety of art and display it in such a way that it seemed like a cohesive whole.  The pieces need to be placed in such a way as to draw the viewer into all the different spaces of the gallery – no small feat in this show!

The hanging party (consisting of 7 people, in and out throughout the day) spent about 3 hours doing the initial hanging preparation.  That consists of moving the artwork around this vast room, looking for the ideal locations to hang it.  The key is to have them work well together, make sure each of the works is in a position where it can be viewed in its best light, and have bolder pieces to draw people back into the deep spaces.  With over 100 pieces, it was like a giant jigsaw puzzle in which all the edges were the same, and there was no guiding image to show you how it should look.

"All the World's a Stage", digital photography, copyright 2010 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved. Do not reuse without express written permission of the artist.

(“All the World’s a Stage” is in the exhibition)

After the inital “rough draft” of the show was set, three of us started on the “hanging team”.  That consists of measuring each piece at least twice, using levels and laser levels, doing calculations to ensure the pieces were hung at precisely the correct height and location.  Because the show was so large and we were unfamiliar with a lot of the pieces, I went ahead of the others and started writing down the names of each piece in their proper order (to save time later).

All this time, other team members reshuffled remaining art pieces to find their best location.

After dinner break I started the task of leveling the works that had been so carefully hung, and placing labels.  While that sounds simple, there are very specific ways to hang labels so that they look professional.  A small hand level and laser level were involved.  Throughout the gallery more work continued to be hung and pieces moved to optimal locations.

"Welcome to the Monkeyhouse", digital photography, copyright 2010 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce without the express written permission of the artist.

(“Welcome to the Monkeyhouse” is also in the exhibition.)

When it was announced it was 9 p.m. (10 hours after we had started) I had leave for the three hour drive back to Vancouver, WA.  Note:  less than half of the show had been hung at this point!

Five people remained behind to finish hanging, aim the lights (no small feat) and get the space to look professional and impeccible.  Toward the end, there were only three.  They were there until 4:00 a.m. to ensure the show would open on time, looking its best.

This is a sneak peak at the result:

detail of RISE Exhibition prior to opening

So if you have ever wondered what it would take to put on a large exhibition, there is your answer!  This only reflects the hanging day.  A lot of hard work and effort was put in prior to that date, and continues on until after the exhibition closes.  I want to thank Dayton Knipher, Zalman Berkowitz, Molly Magai, Naomi Gray, Victoria Bjorklund and her husband Bob, Stan Raucher, Craig Alan HuberDorothy McGuiness and anyone else who participated in having this exhibition go from being a good idea into a reality.

For more information on the RISE exhibition, go to The Ladder Project blog on WordPress.

© 2010 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved

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About Amy Buchheit

I am a Signature Member of the International Society of Acrylic Painters and an Ambassador for Artist Trust. I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Marylhurst University and have exhibited on regional, national and international levels since 2000. I am committed to connecting with the viewer through my work - stirring buried emotions to the surface for further inspection and introspection. The inspiration for my art comes from direct observations, research of subjects I am passionate about and personal experiences. For more information about my art, workshops and exhibitions, visit my website at http://www.amybuchheit.com. My blog "Fantastic Voyage" can be found at http://www.amybuchheit.wordpress.com, and I can be found on Facebook under Amy Buchheit Art and on Twitter as @AmyBuchheit.
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