November 26, 2018
How to Hang Art Like a Pro
If you’re not a gallery or museum professional, chances are you’ve hung artwork the following way: take your piece of art and hold it against the wall to find a spot that looks fine. Enlist your partner or roommate to ask them if it looks crooked (and then ignore their advice because how is possible that they still want you to tilt it to the right when CLEARLY it needs to tilt to the left). Maybe you mark where the top of the piece was on the wall, maybe you don’t. Maybe you use a tape measure (fancy!) to figure out where to place the nail in the wall or maybe you (like me) find a spot that seems like it could work. Then you hammer away, cross your fingers and hang your art hoping it looks okay-ish. Depending on how okay-ish that first piece looks, you then may go forward hanging something else in a similarly haphazard fashion or abandon the pursuit all together feeling guilty every time you see your gallery wall inspo Pinterest board.
Until I started working at CVA, I knew that galleries and museums were the authorities on how to hang art but I always assumed it was too difficult, too fussy or required too many tools to do it their way at home. Not so!! With this guide and a few common household tools, you can hang work just like the pros.
First things first, let’s talk for a minute about what hardware you should use to hang art. Many of us assume wire is the standard (I know I did), but D-rings are actually much more common in the gallery scene. Why is that? Because D-rings are not only a much safer, more stable way to secure art to a wall but they also help make it much easier to hang work straight. Have you ever had to endlessly adjust a crooked frame that was hanging from a wire? D-rings completely eliminate that annoyance. Just make sure you place your D-rings at the same height! Generally, you’ll want to attach your D-rings about ⅓ of the way down from the top of the piece. Not sure where to find D-rings? You should be able to find them at your local hardware store, framer or art supply shop. Just ask for D-ring hangers and someone should be able to help you out.
Next, we’re going to do a little bit of math. It’s helpful to have a piece of scrap paper and a pencil handy while you do this (and, who are we kidding, your phone or a calculator). First, measure the height of the work in inches and divide that number by 2. Jot that number down; let’s call this calculation A. Then, measure the distance in inches from the top of the piece to the D-rings. Jot that number down; we’ll call this one calculation B. Subtract calculation B from calculation A. Write that number down and then add 60”. This gives you the ART MAGIC number, i.e. the height where you will want to place your picture hanger (nail, hook, etc.) on the wall but more on that in a minute.
You may be wondering, why 60”? Because 60” is the average sight line for the average height human. If this seems too low to you, you’re not alone. A lot of people hang their art work too high. But trust us on this, unless you’re hanging you work above a couch or some other place where furniture might block it or damage it, you’re going to want to follow this advice for museum-quality results.
Just one more step before you can step back and admire your art! For this part, you’ll want to grab a tape measure and a pencil or masking tape. Take your ART MAGIC number and measure that distance from the floor. Mark the spot with a pencil or with a piece of tape. Take your tape measure and measure the distance from one D-ring to the other (essentially the width of your piece of art except you'll want measure from D-ring to D-ring and not from one edge of the frame to the other). For the sake of this example, let’s say that distance is 10”. Repeat the same step you did before – take your ART MAGIC number and measure that distance from the floor – only this time you’ll want to make you mark 10” away from your first one. Place your picture hangers (either nails or hooks) on these two marks.
You’re almost there! If you’re not used to it, it can be a bit tricky hanging art from D-rings but with some practice you’ll get the hang (sorry, we couldn’t resist) of it. Once each D-ring is securely hung on each hook, step back and enjoy your new art!
Want to know more? Still confused? Let us know in the comments!
CVA MSU Denver's free, off-campus art center examining current issues through contemporary art. Interested in getting involved? Visit our Support page to learn more about how you can help us offer a year-round schedule of exhibitions, lectures, workshops, demos and more public programming free of charge to our community.