I always remember the first time someone bought one of my pieces and said ‘that will look great on my gallery wall’. It’s not a new idea- one of my favourite things about going to my grandmothers house was the slow walk down the stairs, stopping frequently to look at her collection of prints, drawings and illustrations- but it has become an incredibly popular way to show off art and images.
And rightly so- it allows for all the little pieces of art or photography that we accumulate over the years to be displayed generously and forgivingly (often a piece that wouldn’t look much on it’s own will relate or be in harmony with others). It’s a great way to fill an awkward or small space in the house, where a larger piece won’t fit, but the higgledy piggledy nature of the gallery wall aligns with an uneven space.
If you’re thinking of starting (or already have) a modest art collection it’s a great way to begin with a few pieces, and then expand as you acquire more pieces, looking good all the while. Conversely, starting a gallery wall is a great excuse to start collecting reasonably priced smaller artworks- and hopefully get the art buying bug!
In some ways they echo the full to bulging walls of the great galleries during open exhibition season- think the eclectic walls of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, covered floor to ceiling with art. In fact a home gallery wall often looks fabulous painted a dark red or teal.
I wonder if the recent trend may have been kickstarted by a certain Scandinavian furniture store. Since they started selling ‘picture shelves’ making a gallery wall has become so much easier. In the process it has democratised art collecting, as it allows for ‘propping’ works on paper and unframed art, and, most importantly, changing the art works, swapping and moving, without major re-hanging.
(Though it’s useful to bear in mind that works on paper that are exposed to air will eventually degrade, so don’t put anything of great value on a shelf without sealing from the air with a frame).
Take a look at my Pinterest board devoted to how to hang art for some inspiration.
I do like a traditional gallery wall though, with different shapes and frames. So how to achieve the look? The trick is to start in the middle and work around your favourite piece (it could be a larger one or one that you particularly want to emphasise). Rather than measuring exactly where each piece should go, hold each piece where you would like it, gently mark the top and sides with a pencil, on the wall. Then measure the distance between the top of your picture and the picture string when pulled taut upwards (as if on a hook)- usually a few centimetres. Then hammer your hook in equidistant between your side marks and the number of cms you measured below the mark for the top of your picture. Repeat. Nothing has to be exact or symmetrical- that’s the joy of the gallery wall.
Visit my ‘How to Hang Art’ Pinterest Board for inspiration.