Displaying Art

Before you drive a nail into your wall, here are some important points to consider.
Alice Welsh Doyle

Whether your art collection consists of fine oil paintings, watercolors, photographs, or prints, you want to show off each piece to its best advantage. While there are no hard-and-fast rules, here are some points to keep in mind.

Putting It in Place
Because displaying artwork is fairly subjective, go by your personal preference. "You're the one who loves it, so do what makes you happy, even if your designer or dealer tells you otherwise," suggests gallery owner Bill Lowe of the Lowe Gallery in Atlanta. "If you liked the painting's placement in the gallery, then that might affect your decision." Consider the proportion of the piece when placing it in your home. "You don't want any furniture near the art to overwhelm it," he says.

The museum standard for hanging is for the middle of a painting to be 60 inches off the floor. "This may be ideal if the piece is on a wall that's not encumbered by furniture and windows," Bill advises. Otherwise, you should let the room's orientation be your guide. It's important to have someone hold the piece on the wall so you can see it in perspective. Have that person raise it up and down until you feel satisfied.

When hanging a grouping, you may want to arrange the pieces on the floor first to see if you like the layout. You can even trace the shapes of the items on paper, cut them out, and then hang the paper arrangement so you can be absolutely certain.

Remember that you don't have to hang art at all. A smaller piece looks great when put on a stand or easel and placed on a table next to a seating area, where it can be enjoyed up close. You can also prop

Don't be afraid to put up art in a kitchen or bath. Just remember to consider the size of the space and any specific environmental concerns, Bill says. "In a bath, you want to avoid works on paper due to the effects of steam," he explains. For kitchens, consider a piece on wood that could be wiped clean with a damp cloth, if necessary.

Reserve the right to move things around. "Your sentiments about a piece of art may change over time," Bill says. "As you add to your collection, the placement may need to be rethought."