Gallery view of paintings by Sonia Gechtoff

Building New Walls for a New Art Exhibition

At Women of Abstract Expressionism, you'll see the level four galleries of the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building in a new way. The exhibitions and collections department added vertical walls to some of the very dynamic galleries of the Hamilton Building to honor the lending institutions’ requirements for displaying the artworks (see slideshow below).

Changes to gallery spaces are often needed when we switch artworks in our collection or bring in art loaned by other museums. How do we deal with these changes? We start by tackling the situation one challenge at a time.

Our first challenge was to remove the massive amount of casework built into the African Gallery (temporarily closed while we use the space for this exhibition). Secondly, we needed to remove about 40 linear feet of interior wall, and lastly, we were required to build approximately 350 linear feet of wall 12 foot tall throughout the galleries.

Fortunately for us, we are able to work with some very fine demolition, construction, and painting contractors who can focus on their individual parts of the remodel process to transition a gallery from one show to the next. These contractors include Black Bear Construction, South Valley Drywall, and Scott’s Painting.

Along with these outside contractors we supervise, we have a dedicated staff of full-time and on-call workers in the exhibitions and collections department who work to make the gallery transition as quick and painless as possible. I am fortunate to work with an outstanding group of individuals at the DAM who come together as a team to transform galleries, or a whole floor, in the Hamilton Building into new and vibrant space to display art. This group tackles many challenges including, project management, title-wall construction and installation, signature panel fabrication and install, patching and painting walls, modular wall set up, blocking the walls for art installations, shipping and receiving of artworks, condition reporting, conservation of artworks, art installation, gallery seating building and placement, lighting, labels, and a host of other details to make the galleries shine and complement the artworks.

In addition, talented exhibition designer Ben Griswold worked with Gwen Chanzit, curator of modern art and the Herbert Bayer Collection and Archive, to come up with a perfect gallery plan to show off these beautiful artworks. I hope you will be able to see the exhibition for yourself in the near future.

Image credit: Gallery view of paintings by Sonia Gechtoff in the exhibition Women of Abstract Expressionism. Clockwise from left: Untitled # 2, 1955. Oil paint on canvas. 53 1/4 x 49 1/4 in. Private collection; Anna Karenina, 1955. Oil paint on canvas. 61 x 41 in. Private collection; The Beginning, 1960. Oil paint on canvas. Overall: 69 x 83 inches. Vance H. Kirkland Acquisition Fund, 2015.62.; Children of Frejus, 1959. Oil paint on canvas. 76-3/4 x 102 inches. Private collection. All paintings ©Sonia Gechtoff.

Steel framing for new exhibition walls

Steel framing of the new walls.

Framing with plywood blocking for new walls.

Framing with plywood blocking for hanging some of the artwork to give solid attachment points for the artwork.

Drywall for new vertical walls in exhibition

New walls with finished drywall just before painting.

Looking north through the gallery above the vertical walls.

Looking north through the gallery above the vertical walls.

David Griesheimer is manager of exhibition production at the Denver Art Museum. He has worked at the DAM since 2001. He recommends visitors make sure to see Women of Abstract Expressionism.