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6 Steps To A Beautiful Art Display!

Watercolor artist and gallery owner Marilyn Swift. Photo by

Beautiful art arrangements in galleries, museums, art stores and even private homes are never accidents (no matter how effortless they might look). There’s a simple yet solid process to follow when displaying art that many creative businesses follow in order to maximize appeal. The good news is that anyone can do it!

We found a great interview with Marilyn Swift, a Massachusetts  painter and gallery owner, on She breaks the process down into these 6 simple steps. 

1) Choose the right height. Create an imaginary horizontal line for consistent vertical placement of the works, at a viewer-friendly height. Large items will be hung so that this line divides them in half across their midsection. Smaller items can be “double hung” in two rows, above and below, with the centerline halfway between.
“Many people tend to hang their work too high, especially if it’s in a room where people will be sitting when they look at it,” notes Swift. “Probably a good rule of thumb is to start at around 54 inches off the ground, and adjust from there.” Among the factors to consider: Will people be standing or sitting? Are there low sofas or high stools? How high are the ceilings? Who will be using the space – children? Seniors? Basketball players?

2) Edit. Decide how much will really fit on the wall or walls you’re working with. It’s easy to overcrowd, which can be visually overwhelming, and detracts from each individual piece. The two-row technique can be useful for putting more pieces on a wall, especially if they are smaller in size; it can also work to put a smaller piece over a larger one.

3) Experiment and Observe. To find the right arrangement, lay the works out along the floor at the foot of the wall, and try different combinations. “They shouldn’t fight,” is how Swift puts it. “You need to step back and look, and constantly readjust with a fresh eye that you only get from a distance. A wall can be too chaotic, or it can be too quiet. If the lines are all similar, you might need something to jazz it up.” Another hint: don’t fill an entire wall with works that are the same size with the same frame – “you start to only see the frames,” cautions Swift.
Marilyn Swift, courtesy of

4) Adjust. Try different spacing to give the works room to breathe. Proper spacing depends on many factors, including the size of the work, and how it is framed. “If you have watercolors with a four-inch matte around them – maybe they can hang just six inches apart, because you have that space plus the matte,” explains Swift. “If you’re hanging things in ornate frames, they may need more space.”

5) Wait.  “If you’re not strapped for time, come in the next day with a fresh eye, and often you can see where you need to make adjustments before you commit,” says Swift

6) Hang!  After going through this process, you can plot the exact locations for the pieces in your display and hang with confidence. Swift notes, however, that the desire to tweak is virtually universal, and that the use of a wall-mounted hanging system rather than nails in the wall can be a huge help, and a great way to take stress out of the hanging process.

To read the rest of the article and interview with Swift, visit the Gallery Systems website

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