Behind the Scenes at the DAM

Rising to the Challenge of Installing Nick Cave: Sojourn

As the photographer at the Denver Art Museum I am often asked to do photo documentation of some of our more challenging and interesting installations. We have an expert staff of art installers led by longtime veteran John Lupe and his very capable crew. For the exciting, new exhibition, Nick Cave: Sojourn, there were several unique installation situations. Take a look at the photos below to see what goes on behind the scenes to get a new exhibition ready at the DAM.

In one area of the exhibition there is a long hallway space, 68 feet long with 12-foot-high walls. The ceiling is made up of nine panels hinged at the wall and hung from the ceiling. Each panel and both walls are covered with black fabric and thousands of buttons. First stretching and then hanging these overhead panels and side panels required a lot of advance planning to coordinate the proper sequencing as each component was put in place.

The next challenge was assembling a 16-foot-diameter wooden frame then stretching the huge, sequined artwork on the frame and finally hanging the completed piece on the wall. This piece is titled Constellation.

Another challenge facing the team was how to mount four individual steel-framed panels that Cave calls relief paintings. Each panel is made up of a conglomeration of found objects, which the artist and his studio director Bob Faust acquired by scouring antique shops, street fairs, and flea markets. These panels weigh approximately 350 pounds each and require a forklift to move into position and a veteran team to properly install, anchoring each panel to steel studs securely.

And finally, the team was tasked with mounting an awkward and heavy cage-like construction on top of a full-sized, decorated mannequin. This process involved finding the proper pick points on the bulky top piece and then very carefully lifting it (with a forklift) and moving it into position inch by inch until it was in the precise position to lower into the steel receptacle on the figure. There was no room for error in a job like this.

These are just four examples of the type of installations we do here at the Denver Art Museum. Make sure to visit this amazing new exhibition and see the fascinating artworks Nick Cave has created.

Jeff Wells is the manager of photographic and imaging services at the Denver Art Museum. Jeff has been at the DAM since 2000, and his favorite exhibition that has been on view here is Embrace! Jeff enjoys being in a creative atmosphere surrounded by art in a beautiful environment and working with professional colleagues.