Tutorial: Hanging a Show

LaRiviere_Schlein_Exhibition-5

Happy New Year Everyone! My first post of 2015 is a tutorial. This morning I received an email from an artist in North Bay asking for advice on how to hang her upcoming solo exhibition. Hanging your own show can be a daunting task, so I’ve decided to share my email reply with you. Hope this helps!

Her questions had to do with spacing between the works, consistency where size is concerned, options for variations, and whether any of it matters. While there really are few hard rules, there is a general process for hanging exhibitions that I like to follow. Here are a few tips:

  1. Content generally matters more than size in groupings, but if you have a mixed selection of significantly larger or smaller works, they could be grouped together. It’s a matter of personal preference.
  2. The spacing depends on the number of artworks versus available wall space.
  3. To begin, lay all the work on the floor leaning against the walls in the general location where you think it should be hung.
  4. Next, stand back and examine the whole show, i.e. spacing, the flow from the gallery entrance, good juxtapositions, bad juxtapositions, obvious clashes, etc., then nudge and shuffle accordingly until you are happy with it. (This part takes the longest and is a creative process in itself. It’s a lot of fun.)
  5. And finally, if the work is relatively uniform in size, start hanging it sequentially from one end of the wall to the other. If there is a large centre piece anywhere on one particular wall, then you could start with it first, then work outward to the right and left.

Every show is unique, and there is much room for creativity in how it is displayed. A little Fen Shui may even be useful in avoiding “blockage.” For example, there could be a situation where the image of a woman in profile is placed at the end of a wall with her facing into the corner. How would the feeling of the piece change if she is were looking into the room with her back to the corner instead? In another situation, what if she is not in a corner, but “facing” a particular work of art beside her? If that piece were about pollution and decay, having her “back” to it could convey a subtle but different reading that may be pertinent to the exhibition as a whole. So you see, there is much to think about.

One thing I like to point out to students (whether in the creation of art, or hanging it on a wall) is that in western culture we read text from left to right. This “habit” therefore informs how viewers move through visual imagery, although they may not be aware of it, so consider flow and “punctuation.” It is one of the cornerstones of the Elements and Principles of Design.

And finally, don’t forget to use the formula for hanging artwork at eye level. Here’a a tutorial that I created for Art on Main Downtown Artists’ Collective in 2011. So good luck, and above all, have fun!

Credits: All photos are of Lonnie Schlein’s 2012 exhibition at the WKP Kennedy Gallery. I took some quick iPhone shots while installing the show, and Liz Lott was the official photographer for the exhibition’s opening reception. Visit Lonnie Schlein’s official website.

About Michelle LaRiviere

Michelle is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and Reiki Master currently based in Windsor, Ontario. She has exhibited internationally, and her practice includes traditional as well as digital media. Michelle has a background in education and is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. Her long-time interest in holistic healing led to her recent certifications in Reiki and AromaTouch Technique massage.
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