On my way back to my office from the museum, I cut through our Prints and Drawings galleries, which are currently closed as we hang Gray Collection: Seven Centuries of Art, to open on September 25. I turned a corner in the galleries at a quick clip and was stopped short. Directly in front of me, on an otherwise blank and freshly painted wall, was hanging Wolf the Moralist, a Soviet news agency poster created during World War II that will be included in our 2011 exhibition Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad 1941–1945. On the gallery wall was not just one Wolf the Moralist but two, the original posters, nearly six feet tall, hanging side by side—graphic, bloody, arresting, disturbing.
What were these two originals doing on a blank wall in our Prints and Drawings galleries nearly a year before the show’s opening in Regenstein Hall? Inquiring minds want to know. So I asked. It turns out that the curators were testing and comparing different mount treatments for the actual installation. Hung on the wall were the two Wolfs, each in a separate plexiglass mounting configuration—one flush against the wall (on the left in the photo here) and one suspended slightly off the wall. Next to the two configurations were labels that denoted the pros and cons of each treatment: protection and security, materials, cost, reflectivity, static electricity, manpower hours, what could be prepared ahead of time versus what would have to be done in-gallery at the time of installation. All aspects of the two hanging systems were being assessed to determine which one would ultimately be used to mount the exhibition of more than 150 TASS posters and contextual materials.
The two Wolfs came off the wall just a day or two later, the trial having concluded after expert testimony from curators, conservators, and art handlers. You’ll have to come to the exhibition next year to discover the winning configuration.