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Behind the scenes: The Mercer Gallery changes Exhibition

26th March 2015

Categories: News

Harrogate’s Mercer Art Gallery gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of what it takes to put on a new exhibition as they changed from their winter show “Masterstrokes” featuring works from York Art Gallery, to their new spring Exhibition “In Graphic Detail”.

While the public see a ‘Gallery Closed - Exhibition Changeover’ sign, there is much more going on than just taking one group of paintings down and hanging another in its place.


Exhibitions are planned years in advance, and once the loan of external works is agreed there still remains detailed research for labels and supporting materials by Gallery staff which takes place months before an exhibition is set to open.

Then 2 weeks before the exhibition opening date, the work really begins.  The paintings of the previous exhibition come down leaving empty walls.  Then the decorators move in, and all the walls are repainted, this take two whole days to complete.

The art for the exhibition is brought into the gallery, but it will be sometime yet before it goes on the wall.

The Mercer Gallery’s curator, Jane Sellars begins to plan where each work will hang; taking into account the artistic style of the piece, the colour and tone of the artwork compared to that of its neighbours, the periods present among the works and connections between them such as influences or subject matter. 

Though Jane will enter this process with a rough plan, once the paintings are in the gallery space, changes and refinements will be made until the exhibition is in the best form to give the visitor a vivid and immersive experience.

Once this is complete, the mounting work can begin.  Careful measuring takes place before the paintings are attached to the wall, choosing from the gallery’s vast selection of fittings; depending on the type of frame, size of painting and weight.  The fittings are painted to match the wall, so as not to distract from the work itself.

The curator of art closely monitors progress, making any amendments and last minute notes as needed.

The labels are written for each work to provide visitors with context and further information about each piece and its place in the exhibition.

With most works now on the wall the exhibition is visibly taking shape.

The label holders are positioned next to each work and the labels are printed on card and trimmed size, before being placed in the holders.


While this is taking place the graphics for the exhibition arrive, both vinyl transfers for the walls, and the larger text panels that will give an overview of the exhibition and its contents to visitors on arrival.

It’s at this point the end really feels like it’s in sight for the Gallery team, but they are not there yet, there’s still lots to be done.

Tables and chairs are positioned for visitors to sit, rest and read through the exhibition literature, and display cabinets are placed around the gallery space, they will be used to display smaller sketches and other unframed pieces, as well as objects of interest.

The exhibition researcher Alex Kidson makes a few last minute alterations to the labels. 

It’s a final burst of activity to make everything ready and perfect as guests arrive for the grand opening the evening before the exhibition opens to the public. 
10am the following morning, the exhibition opens to the general public, the gallery looking pristine as if these works have always been there. 

However the Gallery staff are already preparing for their next exhibition “Sarah Pickstone: The Rehearsal” a display of works created after time spent with Royal Ballet.

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