I’m a member at Propeller Art Gallery, an artist-run gallery in Toronto. This Summer I co-organized a group show. If you find yourself hanging an art show, you may find these tips helpful. First of all, check with the gallery as they may have a hanging system and their own recommendations for you to follow.
You may want to first read these tips for framing and wiring your paintings.
Hang art by its center and use a standard height throughout the exhibition.
The rule of thumb is to hang art at eye-level, with the centre of the painting or grouping 57-60 inches from the floor. By placing the centre of the artwork at eye level, it can be viewed comfortably. Using a standard height throughout an exhibition creates continuity giving the gallery a professional look. This doesn’t mean that all works need to be at the same height. Hang paintings in groupings. Treat a grouping of paintings as one unit and hang from the centre of the grouping.
I’ve been really impressed by the way Propeller shows are hung and how they create groupings. Groupings highlight visual and themed connections between works, negative space between groupings, gives the eye a place to rest.
Modern gallery displays tend to leave ample wall space between groupings. Within a grouping, remember to also allow space between paintings for your labels.
A creative grouping can be a take on the salon-style hanging popular in the 19th century where dozens of pictures of varying sizes were stacked floor to ceiling. But keep in mind that it will be difficult for people to see the pieces that are hung up high or down low.
It’s helpful to lay the grouping of paintings out on the floor in front of the wall to visualize how you want to hang them.
Hanging Formula – How to hang art
When calculating the hanging formula we used the standard of 58 inches, later realizing that it may be easier to work in centimetres instead, eliminating the need to add or subtract fractions. We suggest using 150 cm instead of 58 inches.
Calculate the Nail Height
- measure the height of the piece in centimetres, then divide that number in half
- add 150 centimetres
- measure the drop. The drop is the distance from the top of the artwork to the wire with the wire pulled tight, then subtract the drop
- you now have the nail height and you can mark the wall
1/2 height in cm + 150 cm – drop = Nail height
Mark the Wall & Hammer in the Nail
Once you have the nail height, use a tape measure and put a pencil mark where the nail(s) should be placed. We used flat head common 1 1/2 inch nails. For large works, two nails may be necessary. Use a level to be certain that the nails are the same height to ensure that the painting will hang straight.
Creating labels for your artwork is easy when you use the Avery Label maker free online account. You can create an Excel Spreadsheet and then import all of your labels.
- We bought clear Avery Labels #7663 – 2” x 4”
- Go to the Avery website and create an account https://www.avery.ca/customer/account/login/
- Start a New Project
- Enter the Product #7663 (for clear 2” x 4” labels)
- Select the Design (plain landscape)
- Click on T (text) create a Text box for your label information – Name, Title, Medium, Price.
- Choose the layout, font, size of the font, etc.
- SAVE as you go along, no auto Save
- When finished click on Preview & Print to proof the page(s)
- Download the PDF and then run the labels through your printer
In a one-person exhibit, your name doesn’t need to be prominent on every label. For a group show, the artist’s name should stand out. This is what we did, your gallery may suggest something different.
Artist Name in Bold
Painting Title – in italics
Tools you need to hang an art show
- Tape measure
- Step Stool / Ladder
- Pencil & Eraser
- Masking tape
- Wall Paint
- Printed Labels
- Extra picture wire and D-rings
Be ready to do touch-ups
My last piece of advice is to be prepared to do touchups. Bring a heat gun in case a corner gets dinged and you need to fuse a chip back on. Bring a magic eraser to clean up any scuffs on the walls or plinths. If you’ve painted the edges of your cradled panels or frames with paint, bring extra paint and a brush along for any emergency touch-ups.
Share your tips for hanging an art show
I welcome your comments. Please add your own tips for hanging an art show in the comments below.
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