Hanging Art

By Maggie Theodora

According to an informal Range poll—read, I asked five stylish friends—the only home decorating task more intimidating than deciding where to hang art is picking paint colors. When I pointed out to my friends, errr … respondents, that hanging art isn’t just about considering where to hang pieces (or display, in the case of sculptures) but also how to display them, half changed their answers to hanging art being more difficult than picking paint colors. To quote one friend, “Painting over a swatch of a color you decide you don’t like is easier than filling in holes in the wall and then repainting that area.”

With the results of the informal poll finalized, we set out to do a more formal poll. The goal? To make the decision of where and how to display art less stressful. We did this by asking local art and design pros for their advice. Happy hanging.


After working for a large art shipping company in San Francisco (and spending winters skiing here in Jackson), Spencer Rank founded Teton Art Services in 2007 to specialize in the delivery and installation of high-value pieces throughout the Intermountain West. The company works with galleries and designers, museums (including the National Museum of Wildlife Art), and auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Photo by Tuck Fauntleroy

  1. Understand scale. Every piece of artwork looks best with some space around it. Avoid crowding pieces next to doors or window trim, or into an alcove with less than 4 to 5 inches around it.
  2. Consider sunlight—photography and works on paper are very sensitive to UV rays and can fade quickly at our high altitude. Hang these out of direct sunlight and/or place them on north-facing walls. On glazed or glossy artwork, sunlight can cause unwanted reflection, obscuring the artwork almost completely.
  3. Don’t hang things too high. The gallery/museum standard is 60” to the center of the artwork. This can be modified up or down a few inches to taste, but I wouldn’t deviate too much.
  4. To keep pieces level, use two hooks to hang them. The best practice is to hang artwork from D-rings on the side, but this is difficult, so most people opt for a wire. With a wire, hang the two hooks as wide as possible, to reduce the need to relevel the piece.
  5. Don’t use architectural features as cues for layout, like making the top of a piece even with the top of a door or window. This ends up looking forced and awkward, rather than flowing and beautiful. Do hang pieces in relationship to furniture like headboards, sideboards, or fireplace mantels; typically, I like the bottoms of pieces to be within 4 to 6 inches of the tops of headboards or mantels.

Rosanna Mitchell had already been an artist herself for thirty years when, in 2001, she founded Willow Creek Interior Design with Colleen Walls. Mitchell, known for her strong sense of space and color, left Willow Creek in 2015, but still works with Walls as a design/art consultant on certain projects. In her own home—a live/work studio in the Stephen Dynia-designed Metro Plateau development—Mitchell collects works by artists she has studied with. Also, “I collect small, interesting sculptures when I travel,” she says.

Photo by Tuck Fauntleroy

  1. Don’t be afraid to juxtapose paintings, but tie them together with something. This large, abstract Jeremy Morgan piece is very strong in subject matter and color, while the Robert Moore oil painting is serene and traditional and has softer tones. To unify the two paintings, I took the gold frame off the Morgan so that it “matched” the abstract piece.
  2. Because the space is generally modern, I like the artwork to be unframed—it has a more modern look and feel than a framed piece.
  3. If you have a room with high ceilings or a large great room, grouping smaller sculptures with paintings holds the space better than having them stand alone—a sculpture could get lost if displayed with no other items with mass. Here, since the sculptures are shorter in height and not heavy in mass, they work beside the painting and do not block or overpower it in any way.
  4. Consider the size of the painting in relation to the size of the wall space available, what is going on under the painting (i.e., is there a sofa or a credenza?), and what is on either side. Making a decision about where to hang these paintings was a challenge. I had to consider the wall space available after the built-in wall system and floating console were in place. The TV height was also in the mix, as well as the extremely high ceilings and windows.

Nineteen years ago, Tayloe Piggott took over part of a high-end frame shop and began selling work by local artists. It didn’t take long before the space was more art gallery than frames. Ten years ago, the frame shop disappeared completely and Piggott opened Tayloe Piggott Gallery in downtown Jackson. By then, she represented more than local artists. “I had started reaching out to some of my favorite artists, like Caio Fonseca and Squeak Carnwath,” she says. “Eventually, I won their trust.” Piggott has since expanded her gallery to include a design studio.

Photo by David Agnello

  1. Play with light, both natural and artificial. Where do shadows fall throughout the day? How would a piece look with light from a lamp? Light can drastically affect not only a specific piece, but also the overall mood of a room. I always think about how a room will transition from daytime to evening.
  2. Choose work that speaks directly to you. Curating your space is an opportunity to share the journey of your life and personality with those who visit your home. While that might sound intimidating, I don’t see it that way. It’s freeing. Instead of buying pieces you think you should have, purchase ones that you connect with and that mean something.
  3. Encourage a conversation between pieces. A work of art should be able to stand on its own, but also engage with other art in the space, as well as with the architecture. When I curate a room, I always look for the common thread. That’s not to say pieces match, but that they talk to one another.
  4. Check out the space at different angles: What does it look like from the doorway? From the couch? Around the corner? The space should evoke compelling emotions from every vantage point.
| Posted in Departments
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