Expert Insights: How to Display Art in the Home

Have you ever wondered how galleries and museums are able to present their artwork in such a professional and pleasing way? What are their industry secrets? We spoke with our art handling experts at M.S. Rau to gain some insight on how to best display artwork in your own home including hanging techniques, lighting, and caring for it over time. Whether you are hanging antique paintings or other artwork, with these tips, your art at home will look just as professional as it would in any gallery's showroom! Read on to learn more.

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Hanging 2-Dimensional Works

The most important factor to consider when hanging paintings or works on paper is that they are meant to be seen! We know this seems obvious, but many people forget this point when placing their works on their walls. For optimal viewing, the ideal height to hang your painting is at eye level. It can be tricky to eyeball the perfect eye level height, and most people end up hanging art too high. Luckily, art handlers have a simple formula that takes the guesswork out of this process. Traditionally, the center of a painting should hang 63 inches from the floor. Bring out your handy tape measure and use this formula to determine where to place your hanging hardware:

(painting height/2) - inches from top of frame to top of hanging hardware + 63

Let's talk that through.

    1. First, measure the height of your painting and divide that number in half.
    2. Second, turn the painting over and find the distance between the top of the frame and the hanging hardware. For pieces that are wired on the back, be sure to pull the wire taut towards the top of the frame to ensure accurate placement on the wall.
    3. Then, subtract that number from the half height of the piece that you calculated in step one.
    4. Last, add 63 inches to this new number, and that is where your nail, screw or other hanging hardware should go into the wall.

Here is an example:
Let's say that you have a piece that is 24” high. The distance from the top of the frame to the hardware is 6.5 inches. 12″ – 6.5″ = 5.5″. Add 63 to the difference, and you will install the hardware at 68.5” up the wall.

While sometimes this calculation - for instance, if you are hanging a painting over a mantle - it is a great starting point for hanging works of art in your home. The most important thing to remember is to always be sure that all artworks on the same wall have a consistent center height. The only exception is if you are hanging “salon style,” meaning that you have multiple paintings that cover the entire wall.

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Lighting Considerations

Proper lighting is also essential to the viewing experience. Avoid hanging art in areas with a lot of direct natural sunlight, as UV rays can damage the paint's pigments. You might even consider framing your collection with museum glass, as a normal glass pane will block only 90% of UV light while museum glass will block 99%.

In the M.S. Rau gallery, we use special painting lights to illuminate the canvas totally; two strips of light will fully encompass the canvas with an even amount of light. When positioning these lights, make sure they are hung at an angle so that they will not cause a glare across the varnish. Typically, a 30 degree angle from the ceiling will give the desired effect, and present your artwork in the best possible light, so to speak.

IMG_4631Displaying Sculpture

Sculptures and 3-dimensional works have their own set of rules. You always want to first consider how your piece is meant to be viewed. Is there a flattened or unworked backside to it or is it sculpted in the round? This will help determine if your sculpture should be placed against a wall or pulled out to allow the viewer to walk all the way around it.

Is it a floor piece or would it benefit from the elevation of a pedestal? Always be sure that any pedestals displaying sculpture are adequately weighted at the bottom to prevent them from tipping over if bumped. Also, fine art sculptures may need light from several different angles to prevent shadows. With these questions in mind, you can begin selecting the perfect space for a sculpture in your home.

Caring for Your Artwork

Caring for your artwork is just as important as finding a place to display it in your home! It is a good idea to dust paintings and frames with a clean, lint-free duster every few weeks to ensure no debris builds up on the surface. If you feel that your artwork could benefit from a deeper cleaning, never try to attempt this at home. Find an experienced art conservator in your area to do the dirty work, as they will be up-to-date on the latest materials and techniques that will keep your painting in beautiful condition for generations.

And, of course, always handle your collection with care. This means having adequate help moving heavier pieces, keeping artwork away from moisture and perfumes, and, when appropriate, giving it the white glove treatment to prevent fingerprints.

Now that you know how to care for your collection, what would you like to add to it? Check out our full fine art collection to see what we have to offer!

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