Meet the Artists Working at New York’s Museums and Galleries

Rhys Ziemba, Frank Zappa Quotation (2008)

Not everyone with a career in the art world is a practicing artist themselves, but you might be surprised just how many are. The Huffington Post describes the “unsung heroes” of New York’s museums and galleries—guards, art handlers, and other art professionals who, after a day’s work, go home to pursue their own creative endeavors.

“I’m actually surprised when I meet a guard working at the museum that isn’t [an artist],” Metropolitan Museum of Art security guard Christopher Boynton told HuffPost, estimating that over half the guards on staff have some kind of artistic practice. Boynton graduated with a BFA from Temple University, and when he isn’t keeping watch over some of the most precious artworks in the world, he works as a painter and graphic designer.

Blue chip gallery David Zwirner boasts several artists on staff, including inventory manager and analog photographer Liz Nielsen and art handler/painter/musician Rhys Ziemba. Nielsen cites the top-notch talent of Zwirner artists like Gordon Matta-Clark and Wolfgang Tillmans as inspirational and educational, while Ziemba remarks, “the job also forces you to see how hard it is, as it’s not always the best artists who make it.”

Next time you’re at the Met or one of New York’s other museums, you may want to take note of the people giving you directions to the bathroom, because they could be the next big thing. Mel Bochner, who currently has a show at the Jewish Museum, began as a guard there years ago. And even Jeff Koons himself began his foray into the art world selling admission tickets at the Museum of Modern Art.

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