From my experience of framing and hanging art, my overwhelming conclusion is that there is no 'correct' way to do it. I believe it's more about trusting your instincts and having fun making your space your own.
Art has always been in my blood. From a very young age I would go to auctions during the school holidays with my art-dealer dad, and when I was a bit older he would send me off to bid on Victorian paintings with a mobile phone the size of a brick. I'd get to hang out in his gallery at weekends and help with exhibiting the oil paintings and watercolours.
When I left home and went to Glasgow School of Art I was drawn towards a completely different world of modern screenprints, etchings and lithographs. I realised that original prints could be incredibly beautiful works of art in their own right, and also offered a way to own pieces by famous artists whose paintings or sculptures were unaffordable. And so ModernPrints.co.uk was born. Our prints are mostly sold unframed, but we offer bespoke framing and frequently advise customers about framing and hanging their purchases. I think all galleries should take the time to chat openly with you and answer any questions you might have: buying art should be fun, not intimidating.
If you're feeling daunted about what to collect or hang together, limiting yourself to an artist, genre, era, style or colour – or even using the same frames – may help to unify everything (after all, it's not every home that can successfully carry off the 'eclectic look'). A good frame can make a work look like a million dollars, but the work itself doesn't need to cost a fortune: you could display something that has caught your eye – a page out of a book, a child's drawing or a postcard.
The museum height for hanging art is 156cm from the floor to the centre of the image, adjustable with the height of your ceiling (and the height of you), but I like to think that these kinds of 'rules' are there to be broken. It can be tempting to play it safe and hang your pictures evenly and symmetrically (what one of my tutors at art school would call 'wally dug'), but it's also nice to play around and try different heights and positions. So experiment, and if it doesn't work, try something different.
Need some inspiration? There are lots of ideas on the internet for framing and hanging art, particularly on social media. Try following some picture framers, galleries and interior designers on Instagram, or search under 'framing ideas' or 'interior design' on Pinterest. Displaying art enables us to tell a story through our walls. Have fun telling the story you want to tell!
Our Hanging and Framing Tips:
- If you buy art unframed, the gallery may offer a framing service. This might not be the cheapest option, but is most likely the hassle-free option if you're short on time or don't know exactly what you want. Ask to see examples of works they have framed for other customers
- If you prefer to choose the frame yourself, find a good picture framer. An off-the-peg frame can look OK, but you can't beat a frame that has been made to exact proportions, even if you have to wait until your budget allows. Conservation-standard methods and materials also ensure your art will be kept in the best possible condition for years to come
- A good framer will spend time trying different samples of mount and frame corners against your work so you get a good idea of all the options available
- If you are framing a work on paper, decide if you want to cover the sheet with a traditional window-mount (sometimes called a matt), or if you prefer to see the whole sheet choose float-mounting. Lots of our customers ask for their prints to be cushion floated, when the sheet is lifted off the backing to give the impression of the work floating in the frame (see the picture below). This can look really stunning if your artwork is in good enough condition
- If you have bought something framed by somebody else, especially if the framing happened a long time ago, it is important to get your framer to check that materials are acid-free and are not damaging the artwork
- If you see any dots of foxing (pin-head size marks), staining, rippling, creasing or other defects, it's possible there is damage from light, inadequate framing materials, damp, insects or other causes. Don't despair: placing the work in a chemical 'bath' can often minimise or completely remove the damage. Find a good paper conservator and don't try this one at home!
- If you need to fill a wall that gets direct sunlight, be very wary of hanging a valuable work on paper or an expensive sculpture there. Ultra-violet rays can damage artwork and also cause glaring reflections, disrupting the visual appearance. A mirror might be a better option in that space. Again, your framer should be able to advise you, and give information about the different levels of UV-protection and non-reflective glass available
- Conserve your fine art by hanging it at a safe distance from damp areas such as bathrooms, spaces with poor ventilation and steamy kitchen areas. Humidity can damage artwork significantly over time
- Hang or install your art at a safe distance from direct heat sources such as radiators and electric heaters. Fluctuations in heat can also cause long-term damage
- If you have a very large and heavy work, or a work that needs to travel, acrylic may be a better option than glass – it's much lighter
- If you have lots of smaller, different shaped/sized pictures, you could adopt a salon hang, grouping them all together in a concentrated area. Try cutting the same sized shapes out of paper and playing around with different layouts on the floor or wall before hanging
- A frame is protective, but from a visual point of view some works can get away without one: an oil painting can look great simply hanging on its stretcher!
Thanks to Jamie at Detail Framing for photos of Barbara Hepworth's 'Three Forms Ascending' (above and lead photo)