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How to display art: a practical guide

Expert advice on spacing, framing and lighting your art, as well as five of the best picture fixings

how to hang a picture
Photography: Veerle Evans / Styling: Kiera Buckley-Jones

So you’ve bought a piece of art – now what? We went straight to the experts, asking gallery managers, art consultants and lighting designers for their insider insight on how to hang a picture. They came back with brilliantly incisive advice on everything from the height of the average eyeline to when it’s worth going for non-reflective glass.

And if you’re puzzling out a pile of artworks, try our tips for creating a gallery wall with impact.


Are there any rules for hanging art?

‘If it’s going in a room with high ceilings or over furniture, go with what feels proportional in the space,’ says Anne Trouillet Rogers, founder of art consultancy Culture A. ‘Start with a 160cm eye line as a guide and adjust from there. D-rings and wire are standard hanging fixtures, but make sure the wire is taut. If you have a heavy artwork, consider a French cleat system, which balances the weight.’

Also, don’t hang anything above a radiator – the heat can cause warping.

how to hang a picture
Photography: Veerle Evans / Styling: Kiera Buckley-Jones

What are my framing options?

There are many! Adam Bridgland, studio manager at London’s Jealous Gallery, suggests keeping it simple. ‘I like to high-float mount my works in a box frame, which is quite a sculptural technique,’ he says.

‘A more traditional window mount is ideal for framing a photograph or postcard-sized work. Be generous with the space around the art and do an extra centimetre at the bottom.’

To introduce colour, one trick is to pick out a shade in the work and match it to the moulding. Equally, a painting on canvas may work best in a tray frame, leaving the front exposed so you can appreciate the texture.

And the glass?

‘In a room where there is lots of light, go for a non-reflective glass such as Tru Vue 92 or Museum Glass,’ continues Bridgland. ‘Perspex or acrylic is also something to think about if the work is large and you need to reduce the weight of the frame.’

how to hang a picture
Photography: Veerle Evans / Styling: Kiera Buckley-Jones

How should I light artworks?

‘Choose a source with a high CRI (Colour Rendering Index), which will accurately portray the true colour of the artwork,’ says Sally Storey, creative director at John Cullen Lighting. ‘Oil paintings tend to be glossier than acrylic and will create glare if lit from the wrong angle, while watercolours are normally under glass and require far less light.’

The style of your home will also influence the lighting. ‘In a more traditional house, a picture light may feel appropriate; for a contemporary look, opt for recessed downlights.’ It’s also important to look at how this fits with other layers of light in the room. ‘To create more drama, decide on the key piece of art. Light this in a more focused way and leave the rest softly lit,’ she adds.


Five of the best: art fixings

For a gallery wall

The ‘Exhibit’ multi-hanging photo frame by Umbra is an easy way to create an eye-catching salon-style wall. Displaying five pictures from a beam, which can be angled for stairs, it takes away the time-consuming hassle of figuring out the best composition. £50, johnlewis.com

For a picture ledge display

Create a contemporary display with the ‘Mosslanda’ picture ledge from Ikea, which comes in minimalist black or white. Co-ordinate the colour of the ledge with your picture frames and prop up your favourite artworks. From £5, ikea.com

For picture rails

Cast from solid brass, the ornate floral design on the hooks from Willow & Stone will add a pretty vintage touch to a picture rail. £5.50 each, willowandstone.co.uk

For a no-drilling alternative

If you don’t want to drill holes in your wall, try 3M’s ‘Command’ plastic adhesive strips at B&Q. Each one can hold up to 1kg in weight, yet are easy to remove. £3 for a pack of three, diy.com

For traditional hanging

Used in conjunction with D-rings, picture wire is one of the simplest ways to hang an artwork. Measure the wire so it’s double the width of the frame and pull through the rings so that it sits around two inches from the top of the picture. Brass picture wire 3,000mm length, No 2 thickness, £2, ironmongerydirect.co.uk

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