Creative Accounting: Exhibition at Mass MoCA

M. Rebekah Otto
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Below is the complete budget for the art exhibition These Days, which is on display at Mass MoCA through February 28, 2010. The exhibition highlights six different contemporary artists whose work reflects “a sense of both wonderment and elegy.” The exhibition covers 17,850 square feet, throughout ten galleries.

The individual projects range in media and scope: video, sculpture, installation, painting, animation. The exhibit includes four immersive installations: a “chapel to the twenty-first century” that features weeping saints, a safari-style soundscape with fake trees and camo netting, and a cynlindrical room in which the viewer watches a 360-degree video cyclorama and a video projection. Two artists provided work that was pre-existing. The costs for those projects are thus much less than for the four works specially commissioned and fabricated for this show.

This is an unusual budget even for a small museum. Mass MoCA dedicates its resources to working directly with artists, rather than just moving paintings, sculptures, and video from trucks to the gallery space. As the numbers below show, the Mass MoCA installations required the ingenuity and dedication of the entire musuem staff. Keeping overhead costs as low as possible is still one of the advantages of the small contemporary museum; less than 7 percent of the total budget went toward the “general expenses” of the museum.

—M. Rebekah Otto

General Expenses $7,902

Meals and entertainment $612.90

Part-time museum overhires for installation $650.00

Postage $66.03

Express mail $17.87

General shipping $35.92

Graphics and photography $76.41

Gallery guide printing costs $4,310.00

Operating and office supplies $1,980.00

Paint supplies, general signage, and gallery touch-ups $129.97

Regional travel (museum staff) $22.90

Project 1 $42,810.20

BELOW SEA LEVEL by PAWEL WOJTASIK 35′ 1″ diameter, 12″ tall cylindrical cyclorama with 8 interlaced LCD projectors

Materials $1,261.20

Drywall $500.20

1,308 square feet of 1⁄4″ flexible USG drywall to build the walls of the cyclorama

Latex paint—5 gallons $210.00

Plywood $96.00

3 sheets of three-quarter-inch A/C plywood to build the support frame for the cyclorama

Drywall studs $431.00

176 2″ x 4″ x 6″ studs—used to secure interior non-load-bearing structures

Drywall screws $24.00

Videography $3,810.00

Airboat and captains $850.00

4 hours—rented in order to film

Helicopter $1,200.00

2 hours—rented in order to film

Travel and lodging (New Orl.) $1,550.00

Mardi Gras expenses $210.00

360-degree camera $0.00

Borrowed from EMPAC

Projection $24,149.00

Short-throw convex lens projectors $10,024.00

8 Dukane 8763 LCD projectors that have an 18′ image throw, so the projector can be close to the screen

Apple computer $3,850.00

Asis digital-to-analog audio converter $350.00

This converter moves sound from the computer to the amplifier.

Amplifiers $650.00

Speakers $1.000.00

50′ VGA cables $360.00

8 cables at $45 each. VGA cables extend high resolution video capacity from a computer to a projection device.

165′ of speaker wire $115.00

Software development and high-resolution rendering $6,450.00

In order to present this video in a complete cyclorama, the artist had to project the film evenly onto a curved surface. This is harder than it sounds, because the images get scalloped along the edges. For “professional” cycloramas (such as those at Disney World), you can buy a complete system that comes with a rig and changes the images, projecting them smoothly. These systems cost about $600,000. Mass MoCA instead brought on a software developer, Gian Pablo Villamil, who created a program that clipped the images for projection. The program he designed took more than thirty-six hours, on two computers, to change each frame in the videos to fit the curved surface of the wall—but it did so for one hundredth of the price.

Projector rig $1,350.00

A rig made of custom laser-cut aluminum was constructed to mount the 8 LCD projectors.

Labor $13,590.00

Consulting services, fees, and contract labor (visual and sound) $6,000.00

Installation labor $1,350.00

Museum labor, framing, and drywall finish $6,240.00

Project 2 $31,196.00


A chapel to the twenty-first century, with crying saints and an elaborate ceiling panel

Labor $13,060

Consulting services, fees, and contract labor $3,000.00

Museum labor, carpentry, and metalwork $8,160.00

Design and fabrication of internal plumbing system $900.00

Sound track licensing $1,000.00

For use of the Radiohead song “Reckoner.” Applies for 18 years, disclaimer included.

Materials for Modular Room $6,590.00

CDX plywood $760.00

This formed the roof of the room, behind the ceiling tile.

Milled decking $800.00

The decking, like that which is used for a porch, made the floor of the installation. The small slats of the floor allowed the tears of the crying saints to fall between them and drained the room.

3⁄4″ plywood sheathing $800.00

Plywood sheathing is usually used for roofing, as it is specifically designed for high-wind and water situations. In this installation it served as the catchall under the decking where the water was drained.

Rubber membrane for floor drainage $480.00

Drains and PVC piping $375.00

Magnetic sheets $945.00

Sheets of magnets were adhered to the bottom of the wall. They acted as an 18″-tall baseboard molding.

Metal filings $165.00

These slivers of metal were randomly tossed at the magnetic sheets. As the installation progressed, the water of the crying saints rusted the filings and caused them to oxidize, slowly turning them green.

Glue guns and glue $350.00

Drywall studs $815.00

250 2′ x 6′ x 12′ studs; 42 2′ x 4′ x 12′ studs

1″ steel C-channel $640.00

A C-channel beam attaches a heavy object to a permanent structure. It was used to mount the mirror.

Fluorescent fixtures $420.00

Automated plumbing system for ceiling-mounted crying saints $1,640.00

Solenoids $850.00

These mechanical switching devices are opened by electricity. These mechanisms turned on the saints’ tears.

Timing devices $680.00

Rubber tubing and surgical IV couplings $110.00

Medical tubes, repurposed as the behind-the-scenes tear ducts for the saints, enabled them to cry very slowly.

Other Materials $9,906.00

Antiqued mirrors $5,430.00

320 square feet, mounted

Narwhal tusk (fake) $310.00

Gilding for tusk (silver and gold leaf ) $42.00

Paint supplies for drawing and narwhal $89.00

Narwhal carving (in-kind) $4,000.00

Red silk ribbon for narwhal rigging $35.00

Project 3 $10,202.54


An animated film projected on a screen that can be viewed from both sides

Consulting services, fees, and contract labor $3,000.00

Operating supplies $3,144.06

The Da-Lite DualVision screen material allows an audience to view both sides of a screen. To save costs, the museum cut the screen to size and created a stretched frame out of aircraft cable and aluminum corners. The screen is 10′ tall and 19.5′ wide.

Paint supplies $39.98

Furniture and other supplies $3,899.00

A used Panasonic PTD-5700 Projector was purchased for the exhibit, along with a Macmini computer, which was used to play the video.

Staff travel $119.50

New York City studio visits

Project 4 $11,379.90


A visual and sonic installation of a jungle safari

Labor & Logistics $7,568.92

Consulting services, fees, and contract labor $3,000.00

Art shipping $95.10

Operating supplies $3,033.72

Paint supplies $259.42

Travel $330.26

Meals and entertainment $29.40

Installation assistants $600.00

Recording in Dubai $100.00

The artist purchased the recording from friends in Dubai.

Books and research $100.85

Glue gun $20.17

Electronics $1,442.68

Shotgun microphone (used) $205.00

Pan tilt electronics $600.00

As the speakers project a particular beam of sound, this apperatus precisely moves the beam around the room.

Pan tilt head $151.50

Tannoy subwoofer $174.98

Hardware $46.23

Speakers $146.29

Lighting $118.68

Art Supplies $2,368.30

Camo netting $576.73

Scent $71.47

An atomizer was used to move scents around the room to give the exhibit an aromatic quality.

Creature-building supplies $104.49

Creatures made from chicken-wire frame were covered in silicone and dressed in Yves Saint Laurent khakis.

Silicone for creatures $271.44

Bamboo benches $71.92

Plants (fake) $1,157.81

Project 5 $5,690.29


9 sculptures borrowed from a local artist

Consulting services, fees, and contract labor $3,000.00

Payroll (overtime for shipping) $75.38

Benefits and taxes $8.03

Art shipping $101.80

Operating supplies $1,383.80

Building supplies for the level floor of the gallery

Paint supplies $429.58

Lamps $65.66

Equipment rental $65.57

Vehicle rental $314.13

For Mass MoCA staff to transport work

Staff travel $190.75

Gas $166.46

Meals and entertainment $20.00

Project 6 $4,676.41


Art shipping $3,208.15

Shipping from the UK required custom-made crates to hold the photographs to insure they would all arrive intact.

Operating supplies $1,359.33

A projector was used from a previous exhibition. A new flat-screen monitor as well as cables, and a lamp for the projector were purchased. Finally, the team built a frame in-house to house the monitor.

Paint supplies $108.93

In-house DVD player $0.00

In-house projector $0.00

Grand Total $113,857.34

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