While hanging pictures on a wall can be great fun, it’s usually fraught with uncertainty, second-guessing, and lots of unnecessary nail holes. It could go easier for you if you sit down at your computer for a moment and check out a few of the 6,830,000-plus hits you receive after Googling “art of hanging art.”
As with Web sites on any topic today, it can be difficult to determine who are the educated experts and who are merely the people with strong opinions on the matter.
When I made the aforementioned Google search, I found Web sites by artists, picture framers, interior decorators, husbands, wives, curators, gallery owners, and picture frame manufacturers. All are devoted to the proper hanging of artwork, and—needless to say—they don’t always agree with each other.
Most Web sites suggest hanging artwork within the home with its center at eye level. An opposing point of view comes from Urban Monarch (www.urbanmonarch.com/how-to-hang-art-work), which suggests hanging art with its center line at 57 inches. It states that this number is the average human eye level and the measurement at which galleries and museums install their art exhibitions. This site bills itself as “a website for the modern gentleman. It is a site for the man who pursues the evolving culture around him.”
Apartment Therapy provides help with “How To: Hang Your Artwork and Not Screw It Up” at www.apartmenttherapy.com/ny/how-to/how-to-hang-your-artwork-and-not-screw-it-up-006174. This page has fun responses from readers as well.
“What’s the Hang-up?” (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1264/is_1_30/ai_54492531) suggests laying out the artwork on the floor first. This is particularly helpful when hanging a grouping of paintings or photographs. Most folks buy artwork that will complement the colors or materials in their homes or offices. However, this article espouses what artists have been saying forever: The artwork itself is of the utmost importance, not its ability to match the sofa or the walls.
An opposing point of view (www.stylechicago.com/Category.asp?ID=9311) comes from StyleChicago, a company that professes to “connect top brands, merchants, venues & service providers to upscale consumers.” StyleChicago suggests hanging artwork 63–66 inches from the floor as well as matching tones, textures, and materials.
Home Envy is written in a down-to-earth, sometimes humorous, easily grasped style. In addition to the hanging of artwork (www.homeenvy.com/db/0/960.html) , it also deals with topics such as the lighting of and the scale of the artwork in contrast to the size of the wall it is to be placed on.
One suggestion unique to Home Envy is that artwork may be placed on a shelf with decorative objects to create a more stylish vignette. You can mix and match the artwork with other decorative objects such as books, crystal, silver, or other collectibles. According to this Web site, this is a recent trend. Home Envy also offers tips on matting, framing, and decorating.
The magazine domino is different in that it provides a slide show of various hanging styles (www.dominomag.com/galleries/objects/accessories/art/hangingart?slide=1) . There are some good suggestions here as well as some that may leave a bit to be desired. Take a look at this site because it provides a large amount of pictures and ideas, particularly with respect to the grouping of multiple pieces of artwork.
So you think you’re ready to tackle the job of hanging some artwork on the wall? You have one more Web site to visit. Go to Stellers Gallery (www.stellersgallery.com/Resources/HowToHang.asp) when it’s actually time to put the nail in the wall. In reality, you’re supposed to use a picture hanger hook, not just pound a nail into the wall and hope it’s at the right height. These folks provide a step-by-step hanging guide, complete with illustrations and dimensions—everything you need to do the job right. It’s just one page, but it’s full of information that will be helpful to you (including which size picture hanger to use for the weight and size of the artwork to be installed).
Of course, for those of you who would like a gallery-type installation, there are companies around that manufacture hanging systems. These systems generally consist of a horizontal L-shaped channel that mounts to the wall. Attached to that channel is a vertical rod with a hanger or hangers that can be adjust to the installed height of the artwork. A Web site for this higher-end type of design is www.art-search.us/art_products_services/hanging_systems_services.
Confused yet? In the end, much like art itself, your decision on what to hang and how to hang it may come down to what you like. You may prefer to hang the original abstract watercolor paintings at a low height to encourage viewing, while the print of dogs playing cards is best seen from across the room.
Ken Rubino is a freelance writer, photographer, and curator. He has hung group art exhibitions on the East End of Long Island for 17 years.