Unique Art Displaying Tips from the Gallery’s Director, Ward Van Haute
Bethlehem House Gallery provides the unique experience of viewing art in a home atmosphere. We believe that anyone can be a fine art collector and hope our clients feel inspired to fill their homes with unique, local art.
When our clients purchase art, we help them achieve a similar look, by consulting and providing advice on how to properly display the art at home.
We asked our very own Ward Van Haute, artist and director/curator of the Bethlehem House Contemporary Art Gallery, for easy to follow practices for displaying art at home. These suggestions will help you create an eye-catching space and leave a lasting impression on anyone who enters your home.
Illuminate Your Art
Brighten up a room with a well-lit piece. Whether you decide to use natural or artificial lighting, the key is to make sure that your piece isn’t left in the dark. Shadows and poor lighting dull a piece’s colors, causing it to lose its full effect. Good lighting can bring a work to life and accentuate its best qualities. “The best painting in the world is not going to look good in a dark closet,” says Ward.
Be mindful though, the same rules do not apply to both natural and artificial light. Both have advantages when illuminating a painting or sculpture, depending on where the piece is.
When using natural lighting:
- Make sure to hang in a room with large windows that receives sunlight throughout the day.
- DO NOT allow direct sunlight to shine on paper art. Damage can occur over time. Protect your piece by hanging sheers or translucent curtains.
When using artificial lighting:
- When using track lighting, hit the art directly with the light. When using floor or table lamps, don’t hit the painting directly. Rather, use the lamp to provide a glow towards the edge of the piece.
- Use a bulb around 40-60 watts to light a painting or printed piece. Anything lower may not provide sufficient lighting, anything higher will be too hot and can damage the artwork.
- If you decide to use LED or CFLs, make sure to look for color corrected bulbs to avoid skewing the color spectrum and washing out the colors in the piece.
When using both types of lighting:
When possible, use a dimmer to adjust lighting based on the time of day. During the day when your room is receiving an abundant amount of natural light, you can slightly dim your lights. In the evening when it’s darker, you can punch the lights up to give the piece more ambiance.
Symmetry vs. Balance
Symmetry and balance are two completely different things when it comes to hanging your art. Symmetry is created when exact proportions and sizes are mirrored and can be reflected around an axis. Balance, on the other hand, consists of capturing the ‘voice’ of a piece, and how it speaks in a more harmonious way with the other works around it.
This image is an example of the differences between these two ways to organize your art. Symmetry is easier to identify, since it can be measured in a physical manner. Balance, on the other hand, is derived more from preference for asymmetrical organization. “Symmetry isn’t as important as balance. Too much symmetry, for me, is unsettling,” says Ward. For Ward, balance creates a more comforting environment that adds another dimension to the design of a room.
Symmetry and balance are not mutually exclusive. In the image below, you can see how the pieces are organized in both a symmetrical and balanced way. Ultimately, choosing how to arrange your artwork comes down to determining the ‘weight’ of each piece and laying it out in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.
To help you with ideas on how to organize your favorite pieces of art, visit our exhibits page to see how we use both balance and symmetry to parallel and complement adjacent artworks.
How to Use Color
When it comes to wall hangings, color will be the lifeblood of your piece. Whether your goal is to introduce a relaxing feeling to a room, or to provoke a more fiery energy, the colors that you choose to complement your artwork will go a long way in stimulating whatever emotions you wish to evoke in the viewer.
When hanging your piece, you’ll want to pay attention to the color of the wall that you are placing the artwork on, as well as any adjacent pieces that will inhabit that space. The color of the wall is particularly important because if it too closely reflects the pigmentation in the painting, you run the risk of washing out the colors of the piece.
Here are some ways you can use color to make a piece stand out:
- Hang a piece on a wall with complementary or opposite colors, such as a Blue painting on an orange wall, or a purple painting on a yellow wall.
- Hang a piece on a wall with pigments that are minimally represented within the piece.
- Use the colors and tones of adjacent pieces to complement the pieces next to them.
- Take the color of the furniture in the room into consideration when hanging a piece.
Hang With Care
Art should be hung in a way that everyone can enjoy it. We typically hang a piece at our own eye level, but this might not be the best way for everyone to appreciate the art. The ideal height for a painting or picture is at an average person’s eye level. This should be around 60 inches to 65 inches to the center of a piece on an empty wall. However, if the painting is obstructed by furniture or any other obstacle, it would be optimal to hang eight to 10 inches above the obstruction.
When it comes to your hanging system, stability is top priority. Nothing is more devastating than if your favorite painting goes crashing to the floor due to a lack of support. It is always better to have too much support when hanging, than not enough. While the traditional “nail-in-the-wall” method will suffice for most pieces, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your piece stays up.
A general rule for any paintings under 24 inches by 24 inches is to hang with a nail driven into the wall at an angle. If you want extra insurance, use hooks and hanging nails to ensure your piece doesn’t fall or tilt to one side.
Any larger piece (especially wider pieces) should be hung with two nails about one-third of the way in from each side. Again, this makes leveling the piece easier and adds stability. Once you get into heavy paintings, around 100 pounds or more, it’s best to use mirror wire or other hanging hardware. These can typically be found at your local home improvement store, appropriately labeled with weight and grade.
Make It Your Own
These are just some simple, but effective ways that you can vastly improve the way your art is displayed. Use a combination of these best practices to create a warm and inviting environment that looks expertly put together.