The Art of Selecting & Hanging Art
A guide to navigating what art you are most interested in, where to find art, and how to display it in your home from an interior designer who grew up in a family of artists.
This wasn’t a topic I was always passionate about, you see I was a little mad at my parents when I was six years old for the sheer fact that in my room I had paintings and prints framed on my walls instead of posters and magazine pages like my other friends. I visited art museums, galleries, and art openings as a child and wasn't the most amused.
Every inch in my childhood home was covered with art and I felt like I lived in a museum. My task was always being the “assistant” when it came to hanging the paintings and might I just say I was a very good assistant. I would stand and hold the hook, nail, and hammer to pass off to one of my parents and then I would step back and say “right, right…okay now a half an inch to the left…okay…perfect”.
It wasn’t until I moved into my first apartment that I realized how much I appreciated my knowledge of selecting and hanging art. Art can really make a space a home. Art is very subjective and I think that is what I love most about it. You can go into a museum or a gallery and the pieces you love, someone else may not. Sometimes you love a piece because it reminds you of a memory or person, sometimes it is because the piece has beautiful colors or shapes or forms, and sometimes you may not know why you like it but it just speaks to you.
Most of the time I just liked the pieces and I didn’t have much else to add to it besides that. We as humans have this innate ability to quickly see something and know if we like it or not. In some cases this is a great trait and others it is not. We learned the saying don’t judge a book by its cover but with art, there isn't a page to turn to. What you see is what you get. So tap into this ability and pick art that you like.
PART 1: SELECTING ART
So where do you start? The best place to start is going to a museum to look around at the different styles of art. Locally for me, a south Jersey resident, is the Philadelphia Museum of Art which has a wide variety of pieces from artists across the globe and over a span of hundreds of years. Find a style that speaks to you because this will make it easier when you go to search for art that you like, you will now know what style suits you best.
If this feels like a big commitment to undertake, check out some of the most requested styles below to give you a better insight on your art knowledge and selection.
To learn about all the art movements and styles, check out this link to learn more: https://artsandculture.google.com/category/art-movement.
Now onto the next step! Figuring out where in your home you are looking to hang the work. It is important to know what walls you are looking to display your work. You need to know what size piece you are looking for and how it will compliment your room. An interior design tip I follow is let the art be the focal point in your space. I like my furniture to be more muted and the artwork to be the main component that draws your eye in. Or if you already have furniture that pops and prefer that style, make sure the art compliments the space nicely so the colors and style are consistent.
The most common spaces for artwork in a home are: on a mantel, above a sofa, in a dining room, above a dresser, above a bed. Depending on the painting size, your piece will hang at different levels from the ground, but a good rule is paintings should hang with their center approximately 57- 60 inches from the ground. Another good rule to follow is hanging paintings at eye level. There are tendencies to hang the work too high, eye level is where the pieces will best be viewed. Here are some great examples for these common spaces and approximate sizes for these areas.
Now you know the style you want, the space where you are putting your work, and the size of the piece you are looking for! Next we need to talk where can you find artwork? Here are the three great places I recommend buying work.
There are many wonderful art galleries you can search and visit. Seeing art in person gives you a much better sense of how the piece makes you feel because you are able to see the texture, material, and details in person. Also size can be deceiving online, in person you can confirm the size and visualize it in your space. My current favorite gallery to see work is The Art Studio’s newly opened The Gallery in Medford Lakes, NJ. I am a bit biased as my sister, Maddey Wiker Fields is the proud owner, however this gallery is bringing fine arts to a small community and spotlighting local artists, and it also showcase some of her students' work. Check out some galleries in your local area on a weekend and see what art intrigues you the most!
There are a variety of art accounts you can follow on Instagram and other social media outlets. The best part about this way of finding art, is that you can learn more about the artist and their process by checking out their page. Most artists post behind-the-scenes and this to me is always my favorite part to see because I am able to connect with their work better. Here are some accounts that I love following and you should check out yourself!
Similar to social media, online sites like Etsy are a simple way to search for artists. These sites are giving local artists a larger platform to sell their work and now someone from Arizona can buy a piece from an artist in New Hampshire. Unlike social media though, this will be your easiest way to search for a style that you like and finding work at a price point that you want to stay in. This option is great for beginner art buyers, plus it is going to feel the most comfortable as we are so use to searching and shopping online.
But why can’t I go to a home decor store and buy a print?
I highly recommend investing in artwork that you have found that you love instead of going to a home decor store and purchasing a print or a commercialized piece of art.
Now that you have looked at these places for shopping for art, you are probably wondering, so how much should I spend on artwork? This is a bit of a loaded question. You see art can cost $10, $100, $1,000 or at times even $1,000,000. Art has value and each artist and each piece has a different value. If you are new to purchasing art, I recommend purchasing work from $50-$400. In this price point you can still get some beautiful pieces in a variety of sizes. You may be able to only splurge on one piece at a time once a year, and that is absolutely okay! You don’t need to have your home be full of art right away. The best part about art is you will want to purchase work at different points in your life. Over the years, you can begin to spend more if you are comfortable doing so to get a piece that you really love or a larger work of art for a larger wall in your home.
After I talk to a client about prices, sometimes the statement of “that is a lot of money for a painting” comes up. It can be easy to say, “I could make that”, which is sadly not something an artist wants to hear. I promise you that it doesn’t work that way, art no matter how simple it looks it takes skill, time, and talent. If you think you can, than I challenge you to do it; get a blank canvas and paint. Then you can hang your piece on the wall and fill your home with your work. Painting is great for everyone to do, but it’s important to appreciate art and artists even if it isn’t your flavor. No one would ever force you to buy work you do not care for, and it’s okay to not love every piece you see. However, it takes a lot for an artist to put themselves out there and show their work to the world - be kind and supportive.
PART 2: HANGING ART
You bring your new piece home and now it is time to hang your work. Paintings have different backings to them. The main goal of your piece is to have a wire on the back to allow for you to hang your piece on the hook. To wire a canvas requires two eye hooks screwed in 1/4 of the way down the back. The loop is wired twice through eye hook to make sure secure, before twisting it along the wire. If your piece doesn’t have this wire - seen in the example below - you can pay to have it done by a professional. Look out for this when you make a purchase to help save you money and time.
There are different ways to hang art on your walls. A few factors that go into this are: what types of walls you have, where you want to hang a piece, if there is a stud in the exact spot you are hanging your work, and if you want flexibility to move the pieces around in the future. Check out these solutions below to determine which is best for your needs. Read the information on the labels to see what the maximum weight is to ensure it is a strong enough hook to hold the piece. If the piece is a larger piece or is longer horizontally, you can add an additional hook to hold the weight and keep it balanced.
The last step: hanging your work.
Remember our good rule of thumb for hanging work; the center of the piece should be approximately 57-60 inches from the ground. If you are stacking two or more pieces ensure you are centering the collection of work on the wall to keep this spacing and distance consistent with the rest of the space.
Follow this diagram to see the step by step process.
I am hoping with all of this information you can now confidently begin to navigate the art world. Take your time and don’t rush the process of purchasing art. Fill your home with pieces that are meaningful and most importantly pieces that you love!