How to Hang Art


Helpful advice from an expert.

WHETHER IT’S A TEMPERA PAINTING your daughter made in preschool or a museum-worthy masterpiece, art looks better when it’s well-placed in a room. We asked David Saalsaa, a professional art installer who is also store manager at University Art in Sacramento, to share some tricks of his trade.

Got a Match?
Before hanging art, look carefully at whether the work livens up the room or simply blends in with it. “It’s OK for art to complement the décor, but I always discourage trying to match,” says Saalsaa. “It creates more interest when there is that contrast.”

Aim Low
“It is very typical that artwork is placed too high,” says Saalsaa. If the piece can’t be viewed comfortably at eye level, try moving it a few inches lower. When hanging above a sofa or sideboard, hang artwork low enough to give it a sense of connectedness to its surroundings, typically 6 to 8 inches above the piece of furniture.

Give It Space
Don’t force artwork into a space that would butt it up against door trim, windows or furniture. “Art should have breathing room,” says Saalsaa. “It’s easier to appreciate a piece when you don’t squeeze it into a space where it doesn’t fit.”

Group Show
The trick to hanging pieces gallery style (with several works clustered together) is “continuity of spacing,” says Saalsaa. Try keeping the distance separating each piece even throughout the grouping, even when the configuration is not symmetrical.

Damage Control
Take care in hanging art above a fireplace or in a bathroom where heat or moisture could damage it. Also avoid direct sunlight, which can fade some sensitive mediums, especially watercolors and textiles. “I always take the conservation approach,” says Saalsaa. “If there’s anything that might possibly alter the artwork, don’t do it.”

Reframe the Issue
If a piece you love just isn’t working in a room, consider moving it to another space in your home or reframing it to give the work a fresh look. “Sometimes I’ll even suggest taking a stretched canvas out of a frame altogether and hanging it on its own,” says Saalsaa. “It can add a lot of interest to see a painting outside of its frame.”

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