Art handlers are trained individuals who work directly with objects in museums and art galleries. They work in coordination with exhibition registrars, collection managers, conservator-restorers and curators, among others, to ensure that objects are safely handled and cared for. Often they are responsible for packing and unpacking art, installing and uninstalling art in exhibitions, and moving art around the museum and storage spaces.
The duties of an art handler include, but are not limited to:
- Organizing and maintaining materials in storage, including cataloging items and maintaining records of their locations
- Communicating with staff regarding incoming shipments of artwork or other items
- Coordinating transportation of large works of art or other objects to exhibitions or storage facilities
- Preparing shipping materials such as crates and wrapping materials for works of art to ship
- Providing insurance coverage for artwork while in transit or storage, including appraising the value of pieces
- Applying labels to artwork to identify the artist, title, or other information about the piece
- Working with artists or curators to prepare artwork for exhibitions, including framing and mounting
- Maintaining the security of artwork in storage facilities or during transport to exhibitions
- Loading and unloading trucks with crates of artwork and other items
The following job titles also refer to art handler:
fine arts packer
Art handlers work in a variety of settings, including art galleries, museums, auction houses, and private homes. They may work full time or part time, and their hours may vary depending on the needs of their employer. Some art handlers work during the day, while others work at night or on weekends. Many art handlers are required to lift heavy objects and to stand for long periods of time. They may also be required to travel to different locations to pick up or deliver artworks.
Art handlers typically need a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, art history, studio art or a related field. Some art handlers choose to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts or art history to increase their job opportunities and earning potential.
-Art handlers typically receive on-the-job training. This training may include learning the company’s policies and procedures, safety practices and the inventory management system. Training may also include shadowing an experienced art handler for a few days.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Art handler is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Art handler career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to art handler.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of art handler. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of art handler with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of art handler.
- Ensure safety of exhibition: Ensure safety of exhibition environment and of artefacts by applying safety devices.
- Supervise artefact movement: Supervise any movement of museum artefacts and ensure their security.
- Assess object condition: Work together with the collection manager or restorer, to evaluate and document the condition of a museum object for a loan or an exhibition.
- Advise on art handling: Advise and instruct other museum professionals and technicians on how to manipulate, move, store and present artifacts, according to their physical characteristics.
- Deliver correspondence: Distribute mail correspondence, newspapers, packages and private messages to customers.
- Handle art: Work directly with objects in museums and art galleries, in coordination with other museum professionals, to ensure that artworks are safely handled, packed, stored and cared for.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of art handler. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Art collections: The variety of paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and other works that form collections in a museum and prospective new collections which are of interest for a museum or art gallery.
- Fine arts: The theory and techniques required to compose, produce and perform works of visual arts as drawing, painting, sculpture and other art forms.
- Conservation techniques: The procedures, instruments, techniques, materials and chemicals used in conservation and archiving.
- Art history: The history of art and artists, the artistic trends throughout centuries and their contemporary evolutions.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of art handler. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Compose condition reports: Document the condition of artworks prior to and after movement and manipulation.
- Manage loan administration: Oversee the loan administration for exhibitions.
- Advise on loans of art work for exhibitions: Working together with curators and museum collection managers, a registrar evaluates the condition of art objects for exhibition or loan purposes. The registrar also decides whether or not an artwork is able to withstand the stresses of travel or exposition.
- Present exhibition: Present an exhibition and give educational lectures in a comprehensible way that is attractive to the public.
- Communicate in English in a competent way: Competent use of English; R351 refers to level C1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
ISCO group and title
3433 – Gallery, museum and library technicians
- Art handler – ESCO
- Art Handler Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
- Featured image: By Areppertgerber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0