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Gloves Off

September 3 - 19, 2019

About the Exhibition:

14 of Vancouver’s own preparators and art handlers present: GLOVES OFF, an experimental DIY exhibition focused on the artists who build your favourite exhibitions in Vancouver. 

Art institutions hire artists as preparators (also known as art technicians) because of the special understanding of art that a personal practice allows. Preparators need to be able to build walls, build display structures, move art, pack art, hang art, paint walls, paint floors, soundproof spaces, blackout spaces, rewire spaces, set lights, calibrate lights, install vinyl, run media set-ups, and sometimes literally make the art that is showing. The project-based nature of preparatory work provides artists with the opportunity to work on their own practices while supporting themselves and maintaining a proximity to art in their day jobs—yet this flexibility is oftentimes accompanied by job precarity and economic instability. 

Despite the many reasons that make preparatory work enjoyable, the job comes with unique repercussions. To keep up with the increasing rent prices in Vancouver, free time is often spent securing future contracts with various institutions. Preparators generally end up working multiple casual contracts with various institutions—leaving workers scrambling if any last minute changes are made to install dates or team size requirements. Ironically, if a preparator does manage to fill their schedule with multiple work-sites, it further adds to the list of institutions they cannot exhibit in due to “conflicts of interest.” The physical and temporal demands of installing other artists’ exhibitions act as an additional barrier to the already difficult task of pursuing opportunities to exhibit and network. This forces working-class artists to choose between having reliable work in their field that they enjoy, or the opportunity to grow their practice in their local scene.

GLOVES OFF provides a platform for art technicians to display their work and gives audiences an understanding of the artists who perform the invisible labour in their favourite art spaces. To negate some of the barriers that preparators face when trying to exhibit their own work, GLOVES OFF was organized using an open-call format. Anyone who submitted and worked as a preparator was accepted.

The exhibiting artists are:

Brandon Cotter

Philip Dion

Nick Farrell

Ian Forbes

Shizen Jambor

Jack Kenna

Aaron Friend Lettner

Jessie McNeil

Chris Eugene Mills

Kay Slater

Nomi Stricker

Tereza Tacic

Theo Terry

Ronan Nanning-Watson 

Further Reading & Other Resources

Bruneau, Jaclyn. “Dirty Words: Labour.” Canadian Art. May 1, 2018.

MacKay, Kate, and Friesen, Kandis. “Describe the Work.” Interview by Nahed Mansour. Mice Magazine, Spring 2016.

Tan, Ken. “An Art Handler’s Magazine Breaks Down Art World Myths.” Hyperallergic, August 23, 2010.

International Art Job Listing Network:

Magazine and Resources for Art Handlers:

Preparation, Art Handling, Collections Care Information Network:

Women’s Art Handlers Network:


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