The New Museum’s staff carefully installs and takes care of hundreds of artworks every year, but two works featured in the exhibition “Carsten Höller: Experience” require extra special care—so we called in a pro.
William Berloni is widely recognized as an expert in animal behavior and for his dedication to rescue work. He got his big break when he rescued and trained the first dog to play Sandy in the original production of Annie. Bill has developed revolutionary humane training techniques and has provided animals of all species and sizes for Broadway, off-Broadway, national tours, regional theaters, special events, the New York City Ballet, motion pictures, television and commercials. In addition to his work as a trainer, Bill is also the Director of Animal Behavior at The Humane Society of New York.
NM: Bill, how did you get involved in this project?
WB: The New Museum asked me to come in and oversee the set up and welfare of the living creatures in the exhibition. I have been training animals for the entertainment business for over 35 years and for the last 10 years I have been the Director of Animal Behavior for the Humane Society of New York. This exhibition will be my second venture into the fine arts world. Previously, I was asked to oversee the animals used in “Finding Houdini,” which was on view at the Jewish Museum in New York City last winter.
NM: What types of animals are included in this exhibition?
WB: There are seven canaries included in the artwork Singing Canaries Mobile (2009) on the 4th floor. Specifically, they are green Spanish Timbrados, all males, selected for their ability to sing. The 2nd floor’s Aquarium (2006) is stocked with Leuciscus idus. This particular type of fish is born in captivity and is known for swimming in schools. Both types of animals were chosen by the artist.
NM: What kind of care do these animals require?
WB: Because these artworks have been exhibited before, we have a good understanding of how to best care for the animals involved. I had an initial meeting with the curators to discuss the exhibition plan and have returned to the Museum to supervise installation and set-up.
In terms of the fish, I wanted to make sure the tank had enough space for the school and the proper filtration system. The artist made sure there was more than adequate space, which makes for an enjoyable experience for both the fish and the viewer.
As for the Spanish Timbrado canaries, we talked a lot about the environment. I feel these animals need to have connection to natural light for their health and welfare. Fortunately, the artwork is being placed on the 4th floor where the Museum’s skylights will provide natural light. Another priority is constant temperature and no drafts. The Museum provides high tech temperature control for the artwork, and the ambient temperature for the artwork is perfect for the birds. My third priority is chemicals in the gallery space—canaries are very sensitive to chemicals and gases. The Museum is going to make sure all natural cleaners are used to clean the exhibition. A New Museum staff member, with experience in caring for birds, will be doing the daily feeding and cleaning.
Questions? Bill can be reached at email@example.com
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// From our friends at the New Museum