The freelance art handlers of New York City decided to take on the quintessential shirtless fireman with their 2015 calendar, but this atypical calendar got us thinking. About their profession of art handler, to be exact. Though depending on whom you talk to, some may equate the profession to that of a museum curator, while others may correlate it to that of Fry from “Futurama’s” job, neither of those descriptions cover the exact duties of this job. Whether you are interested in pursuing a career in the fine art transportation field or found yourself looking at this blog post as a way to pass time, we’ll cover what it’s like to be an art handler.

To get the obvious out of the way, an art handler is a person who does none other than handle artwork. Sometimes this profession is referred to as an art preparator, but no matter what you may call the position, anyone who is looking to go into this field needs to be highly trained in how to care for art. As what defines art varies greatly in the 21st century, this means an art handler needs to be prepared to treat paintings, canvases, sculptures, photographs, and other media with care.

The responsibilities of art handlers don’t end there; depending on the employer, this job also requires the packaging, shipping, and transporting of art to its new location. Sometimes, the job requires the art handler be the one to custom build the crate for the artwork, as the art doesn’t exactly fit the standard rectangular shape. The job also calls for the setup of pieces of art or the whole collection in their new location. Whether this new location is a home, museum, or gallery, a curator or artist may be there to dictate how to set up the collection. Among these duties is also ensuring the artwork arrives to its new location in one piece. Some art handlers may say this is the most important responsibility of the job because if museumgoers or patrons can’t view the artwork in tact, then the installation is not complete for viewing.

How and where exactly do you train to start a career as an art handler or art perparator? For starters, a key skill to have is knowledge of how to care for objects of all calibers safely and efficiently. An art perparator could be supervising something made of stone for one job but then be in charge of a collection of paintings for the next handling. There aren’t many specific degree programs to become an art perparator or an art handler. But, having an education in an artistic background can help set you apart from the competition when looking to start out. Different companies and museums have different requirements and standards for each one of their workers, so familiarize yourself with those standards whether you’re looking to work at a museum or with a gallery. Becoming familiar and knowledgeable with the environment or gaining more work experience is another way for an art handler to become fully immersed in the industry.

So how do you get involved in the art world and fine art services such that you can become a handler of fine art? Luckily, you are no longer limited to just working for a museum to become an art handler. Artists, gallery owners, art dealers, and art collectors can all be in need of art handlers for care and transportation. Along with museums, galleries, and private collectors, art handlers can be employed by art storage facilities or art shipping companies. (Does the name WelPak Corp. ring any bells?)

While some of the freelance art handlers and art perparators of New York City may make the job out to be a bit more farcical than the profession is (depending on your personal experience, that is), their 2015 calendar shows us these people know how to poke fun at themselves. Just like life, the art world is full of ups and downs, but one thing is for certain when venturing down this career path: it can be extremely rewarding when you’re involved in setting up priceless works of art.

Author: lansend