Inside the McNay: Museum Preparators

When you walk into the museum, what do you see? World-renowned works of art? Innovative exhibitions? It is without a doubt a fact that showcasing artwork is the foundation of any art museum, but, in addition to curatorial planning, there is an infrastructure so crucial to any museum that performs quietly behind the scenes. We have a great set of minds who lend a hand in making everything fit on the level, quite literally.

So we sat down with our three preparators, Mario Perez, Patric Cormier and Ruben Luna, to chat about different aspects of the job.

Q: What are the perks of working so intimately with the collection?

“Seeing artwork up-close and personal,” said Ruben, “I like seeing the back of a painting, its old labels and how the canvas was stretched.” Mario added that he had only before seen many of these works by famous artists in history books so seeing them in person was definitely inspiring. Patric agreed that the most rewarding perk is getting to “see the way artists, from the classics to the contemporary, actually put things together.” Patric, an artist himself, appreciates the craftsmanship and finds interesting the many ways pieces come together.

Q: Can you identify a favorite piece from the collection?

Mario’s pick is Paul Gaugin’s Sister of Charity, as he states it is “a superb example of what great painting really is.” Ruben chose Camille Pissarro’s Haymakers Resting, the piece recently chosen for our Spotlight Celebration. Patric had a hard time singling one out but eventually decided upon Pablo Picasso’s Woman with a Plumed Hat because it breaks from “the preconceived idea of what Picasso’s work is.”

Q: What was the most complicated install you have ever been faced with?

Ruben said that his very first installation was the most complicated by far: “The preparation team had a very short time to turn the Stieren Center for Exhibitions around. We needed to de-install and pack the current exhibition that was up, re-paint the walls in a two-tone pattern, install decorative ceiling and chair moldingthroughout the galleries and un-pack and install new artwork.” Clearly a whirlwind of a turnaround! Patric, who has been at the museum for quite some time, said that “helping to install the new Stieren Center for Exhibitions and the McNay residence restoration were all very challenging.”

Q:If someone walked into the museum and only had 10 minutes to see one portion of the museum, which area would you pick?

Ruben suggested seeing the Stieren Center for Exhibitions and the two current exhibitions there on display. He stated “shows like Recycled, Repurposed, Reborn serve as a great example of how the museum highlights its collection, and Lesley Dill: Performance as Art embodies our passion for innovative exhibitions.” Patric would lead you to the McNay residence where you will find a rich history in the Mays, Zoch and Zilker Galleries. 

Due to a maintenance issue, the museum will close at 5 p.m. today. Tonight’s Gallery Talk will be rescheduled for a later date. We will return to regular hours tomorrow.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and look forward to welcoming you soon.