The Art of Displaying Art

The Art of Displaying Art


The Art of Displaying Art

Displaying Art Like a Pro!

You don’t have to be an art expert to appreciate just how much of an impact a piece of artwork can make to any space in your home or even your office. Art can provoke powerful emotions and choosing the right piece of art can totally transform a room and make it feel and look completely different. 

Calming landscapes can add tranquillity to a room and rich bold and vibrant pieces can give a room a completely modern twist adding energy and unique works can act as a conversation starter.

Art can complement your home décor but it can also enhance it too. In rooms with modern clean and crisp lines an abstract with geometric shapes can accentuate the furniture and add visual interest. In darker rooms vibrant colour will lighten up the space and add an eye catching contrast and reflect your own sense of style.

So today we will be going through the best places to hang your art and how to present it so that you get the absolute best out of the piece too, but first it is worth having a recap on two earlier articles I have written right here on this site. 

Last year I wrote an article on The Art of Buying Art which you can find right here,   and back in May 2017 I wrote an article titled The Art of Caring for Art which you can find here, and in both articles I covered how to buy and how to care for your art and this week is intended to complement both of those articles. 

Hanging Around…

You can hang certain pictures anywhere in your home but some work is better displayed in specific places in your home. My series of artworks depicting roosters for example had always been created with the intention of them being displayed in dining rooms and kitchens, although many of them will work elsewhere too. 

So let’s take a stroll through a typical home and take a look at what might work best in each area. 

Many homes will have a hallway leading from the front door and this is one space where you can make an immediate impact particularly when you have visitors. However, it can also be a problematic area as this is quite possibly the most used area in your home. 

Making the space welcoming at the same time as creating an impact is the fine balance that you will need to find. The hallway is problematic because hallways especially in modern homes are often much smaller than with older homes and because this area is often so busy, making sure that the work remains protected from the occasional knock or two is key.

Many people will use the hallway for hanging portraits of family members and this is a great introduction to the family within the home. But it can also be a great place to hang local scenes and if your home has some history it can also be a great place to hang artwork reflecting the history of the home or the local area too. 

Here is a good place to start thinking about how to hang your art to avoid those knocks and the type of frame used but you can also think about being no quite so traditional too. Hallways make great gallery wall spaces for smaller works and particularly if they follow the incline of the staircase too. 

The Bathroom…

The bathroom is perhaps not your typical art installation space but if you think about it, it is perhaps one of the most sensible places to hang up some decorative pieces. It is a space that we spend some alone time in (unless you have toddlers or dogs!), and it doesn’t have to be all about adding in a few sea shells to brighten the space up either!

Bathrooms are not always huge spaces so size is a consideration. Again gallery style walls with multiple small pieces can work just as well as having a large signature piece but it really comes down to understanding what type of mood or vibe you want to create.

Bathrooms for the most part also do not get a makeover quite so often as other rooms in your home might do and if now is not the time to redecorate then there are things that you can do that will give the space a whole new look.

Larger artworks work well if this is the case and these can be complemented by bathroom accessories that tie into the art and not necessarily just the colour of the walls. In many cases bathrooms are tiled and retiling is an expensive option so re-grouting existing tiles with coloured grout can also tie in the new piece of art and it is way less expensive than redoing the whole room with new tiles. 

So many people tend to go with art that features the sea and beaches and that’s fine if that is your preference but the bathroom is an ideal place to become adventurous in what you display. If you want the serenity or to bring the outside in, then traditional non-seascape landscapes are an alternative. 

There is no specific theme in which you must comply with when it comes to art. Go outside of the traditional and display your art so that it makes a statement however big or small about your tastes because you will have to live with it for much longer than casual guests. 

Works with a high-contrast always have a calming effect and typography is something that can provide a much needed boost of inspiration to you and your family before you start the day. 

If your bathroom space is dark then adding just one or two statement pieces with bold and vibrant colours can bring a new energy into the space and make the bathroom much lighter, and if you want to go down the playful route then there are options to do that too, replace a mirror with a chalkboard and write on inspirational quotes or use it as a way to jot down reminders for the family, or instead of buying any plain shower curtain take a look at my range of art which is available on shower curtains here


shower curtain art by Mark Taylor


Humidity of bathrooms is the biggest problem you will face when hanging art in a bathroom. Water and paper tend not to mix all too well and even in well ventilated bathrooms the moisture from a hot shower can cause irreparable damage to a piece of art if it is not protected well enough.

Metal prints are popular in bathrooms but so too are acrylic prints. Often referred to as acrylic glass prints these offer a vibrancy and definition that is often only matched by metal prints. They are not only extremely durable but you are also able to use acrylic prints outdoors and in bathrooms. 

In many of the corporate art installations I have completed over the past couple of years, acrylic prints are being increasingly used. They can withstand the knocks of everyday life, but it is the clarity and definition that makes the artwork really pop.

There are various ways to hang acrylic glass plates to walls but my preference is to use steel fixing posts which make the acrylic plate stand away from the wall slightly. My advice though is to request that feature when you buy the work as adding mounting posts requires the corners to be drilled. 

All of my artwork is available on acrylic and comes with various hanging options including the steel fixing posts or hanging wire. 

If you are intent on hanging oils or acrylic paints on canvas or watercolour on paper you will need to consider how the moisture build up is going to affect it over the not even quite so long-term. Consider placing canvas and paper behind glass rather than leaving it exposed. However prints such as the ones I sell through my site are made with extremely high quality inks and museum quality canvases so they are much more durable than the original works of art and not affected in quite the same way. Most canvas prints are actually printed with waterproof inks too. 


abstract art London by Mark Taylor

The Kitchen…

The kitchen is another area that can be affected by moisture and many of the same sorts of precautions apply when hanging art in a kitchen space as they do in a bathroom. 

Chalkboard walls are increasingly popular in trendy home designs but as kitchens tend to be a little larger than bathrooms you can get away more easily with using framed prints and originals as long as they are not near to points where they will become splashed with cooking oils and water. 

Hanging art on the back wall at the top of cupboards is a safer area if you have enough wall space and this area is particularly great if you have a lot of smaller prints or series of works all the same size. However, try to use this space for images which do not have small intricate details as they won’t be at eye-level.

Again this is a space where the normal trends need not apply to your art collection. Many people like to give kitchen spaces a retro vibe with retro-themed wall art but again this is about your tastes and not everyone else’s.

If you have pieces in different coloured frames then use matting to tie the pictures together. Using a white mat for example on each picture will draw attention to the picture rather than the frame and if each picture is the same size and have similar tones it is even less obvious that you have mixed and matched the frames but actually mix and matching can be aesthetically pleasing too. 

If your kitchen is anything like mine there will be that one narrow wall which is difficult to do anything with. So consider going vertical and stacking narrower pieces here using similar sizes and frame styles. 

You can even carry the theme of your artwork over into kitchen products too, all of my artwork for example is also available on coffee mugs, towels, bedding, and a range of other products. Art doesn’t just have to be hung, it can have practical purposes too. 


coffee mug art by Mark Taylor

The Bedroom…

The bedroom has fewer issues to contend with when it comes to hanging art. Having said that the bedroom is also the place where spray on hair-products might be applied so make sure that you don’t hang an un-glassed work in the hairspray zone and I say that from experience!

The bedroom is a personal space so personal photos work well but if you want to go with a modern vibe then a calming abstract, florals and landscapes can work particularly well too. 

My preference for the bedroom is something restful rather than busy so I personally avoid the gallery wall type displays hanging over the bed instead I have one of my earlier acrylic abstracts which is as wide as the bed itself. In fact I have sold prints of this particular piece to corporate hotel clients in the past so I knew that it would work well in a bedroom space. 


blue mountains watercolour Mark Taylor

That’s one of the things as artists we can sometimes forget and that is where are we painting the work for? Something some of us probably want to add into the mix when planning our works. 

On darker walls the use of black and white photography can provide a modern feel and on lighter walls the use of simplistic art and minimalism can really make the space seem much more welcoming and relaxing. If you are a frequent traveller then art from your favourite countries can take you back to your last visit or provide inspiration to visit again in the future.

Remember that you can also purchase art on duvet covers and cushions too, you can see my range on my Pixels site. 


cry me a river art by Mark Taylor home decor

 

Family and Living Room…

Aside from the hallway the living room or family room is where you will probably spend much of your time. This is also the space that guests are likely to see so consider hanging your best pieces here. 

Here is where you are less likely to encounter any issues such as moisture but you will need to be careful when hanging art above the fireplace. Heat makes things move and again from experience, make sure everything is well fastened to the walls. 

As this is the space that is likely to be used for entertainment avoiding personal photos is perhaps the way to go. Statement pieces become a focal point and organic earthly shades will create a relaxing environment. 

This is the space where it is easy to pick up art from the large box stores but the problem with that kind of art is that it is available in all of the chain’s stores and it is probably being displayed in thousands of homes and the quality isn’t always great.  

Instead consider buying from local and independent artists if you can’t afford the cost of an original from one of the great masters. In time this is the art which could go on to increase in value as the artist becomes more established and collectable. Even prints from such artists can offer an opportunity to own something that is unique.

Many independent artists who sell through print on demand will not be selling their work in the thousands that the box stores sell. Often the costs are considerably less expensive than owning official prints from established artists and you could by even more pieces for your collection and still have change left over, or you could upgrade the matting and framing options to make it stand out even more with what you have saved. 

Whilst some Print on Demand options are not necessarily at the cheaper end of the scale, what you are getting is a quality and uniqueness that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere on the high street other than high-end galleries. 

I sell a range of work printed on museum quality stretched canvas as well as other mediums such as wood, metal, and acrylic, and of course multiple framing options are available. More than this though, many print on demand artists myself included will be in a position where you will receive a 30-day money back guarantee too. If you get it home and decide that it just doesn’t work for you then you can return it. 


Resting Tiger Art Mark Taylor

Using a print on demand service also means that you will suddenly find art that exists nowhere else, or would be extremely difficult to go and see. Print on demand artists are based all over the world but print on demand sites bring the art world closer to you, so if you want some Spanish art then visiting Don Pedro De Gracia’s sites will fulfil that need for you and then some. 

You can see Don Pedro De Garcia’s work here  Don Pedro is a friend and a wonderful person with a great sense of fun and humour who creates some unique pieces of art that truly will give you a flavour of the real Spain. 

Now what I absolutely love about Don Pedro’s work is that it isn’t the typical Spanish artwork that would be found in Spain’s tourist areas. This work has a real sense of fun and portrays the true essence of those hot summer evenings and the friendliness of its people. 

Bright, colourful, and playful, Don Pedro’s artwork always manages to bring a smile to the face and a longing to go back to Spain. You can sense the flavours of Don Pedro’s region and imagine sitting in one of the local restaurants or bars, not the typical ones but the real restaurants and bars outside of the tourist regions which is where you will find the real Spain, untouched by the masses. 

If you take a look through my artists spotlight page on this site you will find other print on demand artists too, some having displayed their work in high end galleries and at world class events, and I have to say that you would be hard pressed to find this level of artistic ability outside of a high end gallery or anywhere else for that matter. If you’re not looking at the work of independent artists then you really are missing out on another world entirely. 

Displaying your new artwork…


lighting for artwork

When it comes to displaying your new artwork then reading my two previous articles will give you an idea of where to start but once you get them home you will want to literally present them in the best light, and take into consideration how work can be affected by where you decide to place it. 

Just to recap on a few things first, you need to consider placement of art in just as much detail as deciding on what art to hang in that space to start with. Art needs to be well lit to get the best from it but you need to avoid certain light sources as they can damage the work beyond repair.

Ultraviolet rays from the sun can cause artwork to crack and fade or even warp. If the artwork is on paper then even more care has to be taken as paper is much more susceptible to UV and other environmental conditions. 

Lighting…

It is worth going through lighting in a little more detail here because this is the element that can make a great work become even greater.

In gallery and museum environments there is wide opinion which indicates that the light shining on the work has to be three times brighter than the rest of the lighting in the room. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go for the biggest and brightest light that is available but taking into consideration things such as the Colour Rendering Index (CRI) of the light source.

This is a percentage that is applied to lighting to provide a quantitative indication of how well a light is able to reproduce the colours of various objects. The closer you get to 100% the better, but most of the newer LED lights will struggle with anything much more than 90%.

It is important to note that this is not an indication of how cool or warm the light source is but an indication of just how bright that bright blue abstract will appear when the light is shone upon the work. 

CRI though is only an indication and the way that the CRI is measured is often subject to criticism. Eight standard colours are used in the sample when working out CRI and do not include saturated red. There is an alternative sampling method in use but my advice is to wherever possible test out the light source against the surface on which it will be directed.

Today there are three primary sources of artificial light and they are LEDs which offer a longer life-span although initial costs of buying LEDs can work out a little more expensive and then there is halogen.

Halogen lights tend to be much cooler in colour but can generate much more heat than other types of lighting. If you are contemplating using halogen lighting then my advice is to also consider UV filters and keep the light source well away from the artwork. 

Incandescent lights on the other hand appear warmer than halogen however, there is just a little too much warmth originating from incandescent lights to make them effective for use in lighting up artworks, and they are so much less economical to run than for example LEDs.

Texture of the finished artwork is also a deciding factor on how best to light it too. Textured oil and acrylic paintings and particularly where a heavy impasto technique has been applied can mean that direct lighting can form shadows on the work. Using a broader light source across the whole piece will reduce those shadows and glares. 

Again when we look at the lighting applied in high-end galleries we tend not to see direct lighting. Instead the lighting is usually angled away at 30 degrees, but if the piece is framed then this light can cut across the frame and cast shadows on the work. Adjusting the angle slightly by around another 5 degrees upwards will minimise this, but where the painting is heavily textured you might want to reduce the angle by five degrees.

Beam spread light according to the size of the picture can also be used for wall hung art, as can frame projector lights which have lenses that can be adjusted to focus the light. Ceiling mounted accent lights can also be used and the fixtures can be recessed or surface mounted, some offering a degree of control over the spread of light beams. 

Picture lights can be purchased to hang directly over a piece of art and the effect can be that there is more intimacy in the painting as you will be standing closer to it as the lights tend to be of a lower power. 

Wall wash light fittings are another option and provide a broad light which washes against the wall and any art displayed. Most people believe though that you cannot use this approach with sloped ceilings, and I would have agreed with them until I stumbled across wall wash light fittings especially for angled ceilings. There are more and more of these types becoming available but you do need to shop around for them.

Artwork under glass should be ideally lit with diffused light sources to reduce glare. This is why if you take photos of some artwork when using a flash, all you will see is a bright white spot right in the middle of the painting. That though is not the reason why so many museums have signs letting you know that no flash photography should be used, that is to prevent harm being done to the displayed works. Or is it? 

Flash photography produces uncontrolled light which could happen millions of times for say something like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. It is also uncontrolled in its strength and as some works on display are borrowed, no one wants to be the one who damages the artwork. Some suggest that the museum will be using it to sell more official photographs. The jury is out but we do know that light really does affect the quality of artwork so best to keep the flash turned off and do as the rather large security guard tells you.

If you are shining a light on sculptures then avoid lighting them from below but the best way is to use light from three different angles to highlight the detail in the sculpture. 

Is it level?

If you are anything like me then you will always think that something isn’t quite level despite the spirit level confirming that it is. Something can look askew even if it is level and this could be to do with the rest of the wall rather than you not getting something exactly level.

Decorative mouldings askew on an otherwise level wall or wallpaper which has certain patterns can give the appearance of a piece of art not being level. No matter how many times you check, something can always look a bit off and you will hear the phrase “does this look level to you” muttered frequently.

Before we get to the part of levelling the artwork though first of all you need to consider exactly how high the artwork should go. 57-inches above the floor is the typical eye-level spot and where the centre of the artwork should be. 

It’s not always possible to hang a piece of art at exactly 57-inches though and particularly when it is above furniture. If this is the case then the bottom of the art needs to be around 3-8 inches above the furniture but for fireplaces it really depends on how tall the fireplace is to begin with, but consider 5 inches as a rule.  

Hanging art too low means that you will be looking down on it, and hanging it too high means you are likely to get a stiff neck. What I have noticed in some galleries is that they will hang their works slightly higher than eye level and some slightly lower.

Now this is where it gets a little confusing because 57 inches is fine when a range of artworks are displayed in a row. However if there is only one piece of art hanging some people will prefer the centre of the art to sit at around 60-62 inches from floor level and where no furniture is sitting beneath.

When you are hanging a gallery wall made up from a range of artworks then the centre of the arrangement should ideally be at 60-62 inches above the floor.

Of course you don’t always have to hang a piece of art on a wall. Personally I am not a fan of this new style they call ‘leaning’ where a canvas or other artwork is leaned against a wall. Too me it just likes like someone has only recently moved in and hasn’t found the time to hang the work up but depending on the type of space that you have, leaning could provide a different aesthetic again. Where leaning tends to work better is in open loft type apartment spaces.

Leaning doesn‘t necessarily always need to be on the ground. Leaning art on top of a piece of furniture can also work, but as I say I am a traditionalist and much rather prefer my art to be secured to the wall. 

Fixtures and Fittings…

I have seen a very expensive original artwork come crashing down from a wall bringing part of the wall with it and it’s not something that you want to happen at all. 

The problem with this particular piece of artwork was the weight of the frame and the fact that the owner had decided to go with a hanging hook together with a nail which wasn’t designed to be hammered into plasterboard. The nail eventually worked its way out and the result was almost £3,000 worth of replacement wall and an artwork that needed to be restored. 

The hanging fixings supplied with my art are of a high quality and you are unlikely to encounter issues when hanging. The steel fixing posts for the acrylic prints are particularly good at securing work even in outdoor environments, but there are cheap options on the market that don’t always meet the standards you would hope for. 

Art is expensive so considering spending just a tiny bit more on quality fixings is a worthwhile investment if you want to feel comfortable that your art is unlikely to move around. Buildings move all the time and over a sustained period of time cheaper fixings can work themselves away from the wall and then the art comes crashing down.

Admittedly the art I witnessed had been hung in a home that was well within a fault line and was subject to periodic earthquakes and tremors. On this particular day though there were no earthquakes that would have meant that the art had become unstable, the reason was that a large truck had rolled past the house a few minutes before and must have been the prompt that the nail needed to dislodge itself. 

Now if the earthquake was to be sufficient to bring down the walls of a home then no fixtures are going to guarantee that your art will remain intact and the best you can do is hope and pray that your artwork can be salvaged. 

However for smaller tremors which cause only moderate shakes there are options available which will protect your work so long as the wall stays up. One of these options would be to look at suspended cable systems and tensioned cable solutions. In some cases the frame itself can form part of the tensioned solution in that the frame sits between cables run in pairs with one at each side of the artwork.

If you don’t live in an earthquake prone zone then more traditional hanging solutions would be the way to go. Whichever way you do go will present a set of questions that will determine what type of fixing you should use. 

  1. What is the weight of the painting including the frame?
  2. What type of wall do I have – is it load bearing?
  3. What environmental factors such as rising heat do I need to consider?

Once those elements are identified then the choice of fixing is down to style and available budget. Some hanging kits will offer only the basics and others will also incorporate security features such as locks which mean that the art cannot be removed without a key or special tool. 

Others need to be clipped or even screwed to the frame and you will need to consider this if the frame is valuable. If it is valuable then you might need to consider using hanging wires instead. Now there is a reason that hanging wires are called hanging wires and that is that they are made from wire, not string. 

I have seen original works of art which have cost significant sums of money to acquire and that have been held up with a piece of string. String tends to stretch and deteriorate over time and eventually it rots and your painting crashes down to the floor. Modern hanging wires are usually anodised or are stainless steel which makes them much stronger than the hanging wires of a decade or so ago, and for not much more you can now buy hanging wire which has a further protective plastic coating. 

Whenever I use hanging wires I tend to use a slightly heavier wire than recommended and often I will double up. None of this will guarantee that the art will always remain level when using wires but one of the most useful products you should also consider is to grab a tub of museum wax. This provides a little extra grip for collectibles and it’s not expensive at all. I’ve used it without issue for a few years now but make sure that you get a clear crystalline wax.

There are a myriad of hanging options these days and as I said earlier not all of them are too much more expensive than some of the more traditional options and they are pretty much all cheaper than replacing/restoring damaged artworks. 

Get Hanging…

So by now you should have a little more knowledge around displaying your new artwork and if you have referred back to my older articles hopefully you will be a little better prepared to venture out into the art world and make a purchase. 

Do consider using independent artists though and you will be sure to find something that matches exactly what you need and you will be helping the artist directly by doing this and I think you will be pleasantly surprised at just how high the quality often is. 

ABOUT M.A

Mark A. Taylor is a British artist and blogger who specialises in abstract and landscape work and also produces art to be used within TV and film, and book covers. You can see and purchase Mark’s artwork on a wide range of print mediums and other products right hereand you can follow Mark on Facebook here.

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