Art is a crowning element in interior décor; gallery walls have grown more popular in residential and commercial interior design. Also known as salon style display of art, gallery-style exhibition involves the dedication of a single wall to the showcasing of multiple pieces. It emulates the principles used in the professional exhibition of art in galleries to create an organized and cohesive collection.
Learning how to hang art gallery style is as crucial a part of an art-viewing experience as the artwork itself. From the selection of the artwork in a consistent theme to the placement of every piece in a collection and the harmonious coordination of colors, every element in a gallery wall is calculated to achieve a desired aesthetic.
Here are the basic principles and great tips for hanging art on your gallery wall:
1. Artwork Selection
Finding the perfect collection for your gallery wall is the first important step in creating an appealing exhibition like a pro. To avoid visual clutter, group similar artworks together. This may include selecting artworks with a consistent theme, color palette, picture frame design, or art style.
For instance, you may choose to place only monochromatic family photos or minimalistic artwork in your collection. You can go with a tropical theme, show abstract pieces, or just simple landscapes.
Select pieces that appeal to your personality to give it a more unique touch. If you’re going for an Eclectic Gallery style, you can also combine different contrasting pieces drawn from various sources. Fuse bold paintings with sculptures to create an art-centric room that is mentally stimulating. In this case, the secret is to find a single element of consistency that brings the whole look together.
For more ideas along this line read our post about art centric rooms. 4 Ideas for Designing Your Art-Centric Room - many of these great tips on selecting art will help energize your thinking about how to choose and think about positioning of pieces for your art-centric décor.
2. Frame Style
Since you’re working with a large collection of paintings, it is more prudent to go for a simple, minimalistic frame style that does not draw attention from the artwork. Go for matching frames with painted finishes in color-coordinated designs that complement the wall art, or various metallic finishes for a futuristic or antique look.
3. Artwork Positioning
Having chosen the artwork for your collection as well as the accompanying frames, it is time to work on the placement of your artwork. As a general rule, artwork is placed at eye level, with the center of your collection being 57-inches from the ground. However, when placing an art collection in a room where it will mostly be viewed in a sitting position, you will need to lower the centerline to this new eye level.
The scale of your room needs to be considered when choosing art. Imposing artwork can dominate a room that is not large enough to display those pieces comfortably. Small spaces, on the other hand, can flourish when the dimensions of the art synchronize with the angles and shapes of the walls. Especially appealing are collections that harmonize with the lines created by windows, doors, molding, and other architectural details.
Another exception to this rule applies when installing artworks behind furniture. Place the bottom of your artworks between 6 to 12 inches above your furniture, for a unified, but less cluttered look.
4. Artwork Spacing
Having uniform spacing between various wall art makes for a neat design. Evenly space your small artworks between 1.5 to 2.5 inches apart, and maintain a 3 to 6 inch distance for the larger framed art pieces on your gallery wall.
5. Gallery Wall Layouts
When setting an art gallery style display, finding a gallery wall layout that will maximize your wall space is highly essential. Before fixing your artwork onto the gallery wall, trace out the layout onto your wall using Kraft paper and masking tape to visualize it and make any prior changes as required. The following are two main gallery wall layout ideas for hanging artwork:
Symmetrical Gallery Wall Layout
A symmetrical layout entails distributing your art pieces evenly from the centerline. This creates a visual balance for an orderly and formal display of art. A perfect example of a symmetrical gallery wall layout is hanging art in a grid layout.
Asymmetrical Gallery Wall Layout
An asymmetric art layout is a more flexible display that allows for more variations in the arrangement of your art. It does not require an equal balance of pieces on either side of the centerline. As such, it allows you to be more creative and expressive with your art display. Assymetrical layouts allow more variety, but in many ways assymetrical layout requires greater aesthetic judgement and finesse. Varying size, color, positioning and maintaining a relationship with room elements can be more challenging when the different sizes, types, and frames of the art makes positioning more intuitive and less programmatic.
6. Hanging Artworks of Different Sizes and Orientations
Hanging art pieces of different sizes and orientations may feel like a challenge when organizing your gallery wall. Work with the largest artwork being the focal point of your exhibition, placing it first at eye level, then proceeding to position the remaining smaller artworks symmetrically or asymmetrically around it. Ensure you maintain uniform spacing around every art piece for a coordinated appearance.
7. The Hanging Method
There are many types of hanging hardware you can use to hang pictures onto your gallery wall. However, the selection of the method you use for hanging a heavy picture is dependent on a variety of factors such as its weight, the wall type, and the size of the art frame.
While drilling and nailing are often commonly used when hanging pictures, their application in gallery walls is not as suitable due to the number of artworks in question. Having to drill enough holes to secure a dozen of paintings can cause significant nail hole damage to the wall. That is why curators in art galleries go for alternative hanging methods. The preferred gallery hanging systems include:
Picture Hanging Systems
Picture Hanging Systems are the most commonly used method for hanging pictures and paintings on gallery walls. A picture hanging system comprises a hanging rail or track onto which several pictures are hung, picture hooks, and adjustable hanging cords or suspension rods. Not only does it provide a lot of flexibility in the hanging of your pictures, but it also minimizes the need for drilling and nailing your wall for each and every single artwork.
Picture Hanging Strips
For lighter artworks weighing a maximum of sixteen pounds, artwork hanging strips are another less destructive option. You can use heavy-duty adhesive strips that are double-sided to secure all your artworks to the gallery wall.
Picture Hangers, Picture Hooks, and Picture Wires
If you have no access to any of the above options, you can work with a sawtooth hanger and sawtooth hook for heavier pieces and art prints of up to 250 pounds.
You can also use picture wire, fixing the screws or strap hangers on each side of your frame, at a one-third position from the top of the frame, and winding the picture wire tightly around the screws.
When working with picture wire, it is important to ensure that the artwork will still be centered 57 inches from the ground after hanging it onto a picture hook, toggle bolt anchor, or a screw on the wall. For this, you will need to factor in the drop of the tightened hanging wire when fixing your hook or nail onto the wall. The drop is measured as the distance from the top of the picture frame to the position of the hanging wire when pulled up tight.
Use a tape measure to find the height of your wall art and divide it by two. Add this value to the 57 inches of eye level and subtract the drop distance. Mark this height onto the wall with painter’s tape. This will be the right height to position your nail or hook when fixing your art with picture wire.
8. Gallery Wall Art Lighting
Art lighting is the final crowning element for curating an art gallery style experience. There are several factors that you need to consider when selecting the best lights for accentuating the art on your gallery wall. You can choose to illuminate specific pieces with spotlight and picture lights, or illuminate the entire gallery wall with wall washers, floodlights, or recessed ceiling lights. Some track lights come with adjustable beam angles and are compatible with wall-washers and framing projectors, allowing you to precisely switch between different beam angles.
Getting a light source with a high color rendering index of over 90, and an illuminance level that is three times higher than the light levels in the room will boldly bring out every detail and enhance the colors in your artwork. For your home, you can select a warm color temperature to create a cozy and relaxing mood in your interior spaces. Go for dimmable energy-efficient light fixtures, exploring different track lighting ideas for your gallery wall art pieces.
Art Can Change Everything
Hanging art on a gallery wall is a skill that is slowly perfected with time. There is no one way to hang art, but the above principles will help you ensure that even as you explore different arrangements that work for you, your display remains harmonious and aesthetically pleasing. In the end, all that matters is drawing focus where you need it. Instantly capture attention by installing picture lights to elevate your artworks. Your stunning pieces will render speechless anyone who enters the room. From sleek track lights to intimate handcrafted picture lights for your luxury interior lighting, Perfect Picture Lights has all the quality art lighting fixtures you need to get you started. Custom gallery wall lighting is uniquely available here too!
Winny Okoth is a practicing Construction Project Manager and Interior Designer. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Construction Project Management. Winny Okoth has a great passion for every form of design and specializes in 3D visualizations for architectural and interior design