Hanging Judge: How to install works of art

with advice from David The Artman

So you have the finished article, the work of art, the result of someone’s blood, sweat, tears and talent. Now is the time for pleasure, indulging in the beauty it gives the beholder.

You owe it to yourself and to the artist to do it right. The work of art has reached its resting place and should be shown in the best light, harmonious with its surroundings. As Pablo Picasso said, the purpose of art is to clear the dust of everyday life from our souls. That’s a tall order, and hardly one the work can fulfill if we haven’t even hung it properly!

Cue David The Artman to tell us how. He’s been a professional art installer for more than 11 years, and his work ranges from small apartments to Melbourne’s most prestigious galleries and the homes of the city’s most committed collectors.

“The biggest mistake people make when hanging artwork in their homes is that it is too high,” says David. He advises that the centre of the work should be approximately 1.5m from the floor, regardless of the picture’s size, as this suits the average eye level. This general rule can be varied to allow for the positioning of furniture, such as a sofa or sideboard, but should still be organized around a central point for continuity across all works.

Another of David’s suggestions is to ensure there are two parallel fixings on the reverse side of the picture, rather than a single hook in the middle. This prevents movement and also holds the picture tightly against the wall with no tilting forward.

Whether hanging work in an enormous house, or a small apartment, David explains, the same rule should apply about hanging height. When you next visit a gallery, take note of the height of the works. Even when on the large walls of the National Gallery of Victoria, the art remains at the same height. Keeping the continuity across the wall, throughout a room and even through the entire house also creates harmony in the display. You’ll find it suits the space and the viewer, so that people don’t actually notice the hanging. This means the eye isn’t drawn to chaos. Instead the pieces show off their virtues as art, which is precisely what they’re there to do.

Rather than arrange pieces in a linear fashion, many opt for salon-style hanging (sometimes referred to as French hanging), where artworks are hung close to each other from floor to ceiling in multiple rows. In this case, too, it’s important to observe the rule about the 1.5m centre point, with one piece placed in the centre of the composition, its mid-point resting at eye-level. Once again, this creates a focal point for the hanging as well as that all-important harmony.

Clearly it’s important to consider what you’d like in the centre of this layout. It may be tempting to automatically place the biggest piece of art here, but this is not necessarily best. The layout should depend entirely on the aesthetic of the room.

Like all art installation, there’s more to salon hanging than meets the eye – if it weren’t a specialised task then David The Artman wouldn’t be in such unrelenting demand – and it’s not something to rush. Before picking up a hammer, David suggests, arrange the works on the floor and consider their composition. Play around with the layout until you find the most harmonious arrangement.

And once you have, it’s time to get hanging. In no time you should have wiped that dust away, ready for the soul to take flight.

For further advice email David at davidtheartman@gmail.com.