Art Handling Olympics

Gold Medal Ceremony
Originally uploaded by killerfemme

I admit it, I didn’t watch the winter olympics. However hard I was rooting for Canada to win a gold in hockey, my lack of TV kept me from the games. But one olympics I was sure not to miss was the first, and hopefully not the last, Art Handling Olympics held today at Ramiken Crucible in Manhattan Chinatown. A bunch of teams of art handlers from institutions, companies and galleries competed in activities like packing, delivering, hanging, the “static hold” (holding really heavy art while a “curator” with a fake German accent barked at them), and “the eliminator,” which included uncrating, assembling, and recrateing a “work of art.”
Before I started working in museums I didn’t know what an art handler was, but quickly realized they are the backbone of the arts world, especially here in NYC. Very few run of the mill people really think about how art makes in from the studio to the gallery or auction house to the museum to the wall, but this is what these guys and ladies deal with everyday. Trucks. Heavy stuff. Impatient dealers, gallerists, curators, and registrars.
Being there felt a little bit like being at Duke Riley’s piece “Those about to Die, we salute you” that took place at the Queens Museum this past summer. It was an art world event. However, it was also really fun to get together and make fun of ourselves in the art world a little bit and make an invisible community a little more visible. Maybe this is what it felt like when bike messengers started having races. Maybe art handling is going to become the next hip thing? Probably not, because I can’t see how it’s marketable in the way bikes are, but I was surprised at how many media reps were at the event, so it definitely sparked some curiosity. It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.