How to Hang Artworks

2 April 2022

How to Hang Artworks

“Negative space is, to me, one of the most unevaluated elements when it comes to placing several artworks together. What is the space in between each work? This negative space is the path created by each spectator, the space they occupy when they walk from one work to another, when their eyes scroll from one element to another. And this space is, of course, strongly influenced by the context,” says Marc-Olivier Wahler, former Director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum in Michigan and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

Caution first!

It can be tempting to give your favourite works pride of place above the fireplace, but Christie’s art handlers recommend proceeding with caution. “We see plenty of pictures that come in for valuation having been hung above a fireplace,” says Pat Galligan, who works at Christie’s in London. “Over time, the canvas can melt or be damaged — a phenomenon that can also affect works hung above a radiator.” Similarly, light can fade fragile or unprotected works. “Beware of direct sunlight, and never hang a drawing or a watercolor near a window.”

The perfect height

One of the most common mistakes made when decorating your house is hanging pictures too high. The centre of the picture should be located at the eye-level of an average person. The simplest way to achieve an optimal result is to place your painting’s centre at around 150cm from the floor. “For modern and contemporary art, 155cm is the height used by museums, and for displays at Christie’s,” explains Pat. You should be able to view your canvas without problem, without craning your neck or missing the top of the painting. To hang a picture over a bed, sofa or dresser, count 13 to 20 centimetres between the bottom of the painting and the top of the furniture.

Large wall art

The general rule here is that artwork shouldn’t be wider than the furniture beneath them. The most fitting width for either a single piece or a group of paintings is 75% of the width of the furniture. On large walls with tall ceilings, you’ll want a vertical piece to draw the eye upward. Large wall art should cover from 60 to 80% of the whole wall; there is no need to fear picking a large painting instead of one that is smaller. “When you hang the piece of art, if it looks like many additional pieces would fit on the wall with it, it’s likely too small,” says Alessandra Wood, VP of style for e-design company Modsy.

A group of different mid-to-small sized pieces

In case of a set of two pieces of the same size, we suggest keeping about ten centimetres between them. Think of gallery walls as one giant piece of art; the centre should be about 150 centimetres from the ground if hung on its own, and directly above the centre of a piece of furniture. And again here, the bottom of the grouping should be 13 to 20 centimetres above the top of the furniture. For best results, keep the rest of your decor minimal to ensure the focus is on the art.

Placement asymmetrical to furniture

We love the look of one or a few pieces of art hung above furniture but substantially off centre. The key to placement here is that it has to look intentional, a piece that is just a few inches off-centre will look as if it were hung incorrectly. Hang the art at least 20 centimetres to the left or right of the centre of the furniture, and the bottom 13 to 20 centimetres above the top.

Photo Matt Harrington. Courtesy of Nebihe Cihan Studio. Source Larry´s List.