HOW TO HANG A GALLERY WALL
Wolfgang Tillmans is an influential contemporary German photographer. Emerging in the 1990s with his snapshot documentation of youths, clubs, and LGBTQ culture. I love Wolfgang Tilman's work and when I saw his Tate exhibition in 2017 it was not just the subject matter of his photographs that inspired me, it was the way the exhibition was curated that made me rethink the composition of my own gallery wall at home.
Every art collection is different, calling for its own unique wall layout based on the size and number of works you want to hang, the design of the room it lives in, and the general look and feel you want. But here I have outlined some key things to think about when hanging your gallery wall.
The key element of your gallery display will be how much wall space you have. But don’t feel you have to fill the entire wall. A vertical or horizontal display will work better if you have a small space or limited collection.
The shape, size and type of frames will also determine the best gallery layout. As a rule of thumb if you have smaller frames or identical types then opt for symmetry. If you have a variety of sizes and types of frames then a random design will be better, think RA summer show, salon layout.
When deciding on your gallery wall layout, think about the design of the space and how the art collection will work in the room. Consider how the furniture and colour palette will work together.
Here are a few composition ideas for the gallery wall.
ON A SHELF
Art doesn’t always have to be hung on the wall. Shelves whether solo or multiple can make the perfect place to show your collection. This is especially great if you like to swap out your artwork often or if you live in rented accommodation or you do not want to damage the walls.
Choose works in a variety of sizes and orientations for a more layered look, and if space allows, try adding a small vase or object in front of the art for extra visual appeal.
Order, order! The symmetrical look that’s sure to give any room a classical appeal. But make sure to take extra care when hanging this type of gallery wall as it is not forgiving of uneven measurements. Focus on symmetry and spacing between the frames.
To heighten the symmetry opt for consistently of the artwork too.
You’ll find that many gallery walls start from the centre and radiate outward. This look retains that classic gallery wall look as each artwork starts from a straight line at the top.
This type of gallery wall is all about making a statement. Create a focal point in your space by positioning an oversized piece (artwork, a mirror, or another decorative wall accent) in the middle and have a collection of smaller works surrounding it. This arrangement works especially well for anchoring large pieces of furniture such as a sofa, a desk, or a bed.
The mix-and-match nature of the look also makes it more adaptable, since you can add on pieces as you find them without rearranging the whole wall. It is a great way to fill blank space and consider this the best way to display a growing collection.
WALLPAPER AND ART
Wallpaper and art are the perfect match. The only challenge is knowing how to combine the two.
A backdrop of wallpaper doesn’t initially shout the ideal location for a gallery wall but it can work to dramatic effect as long as you maintain consistency and think about the colour palette.
It is also important to think about the connection the wallpaper and artwork have. Do they share a colour? Are they complementary colours? Do they share subject matter?
Don’t always play it safe with your frame. Hanging with a characterful frame will draw attention to the artwork. Try echoing colours in the frame or artwork with the furnishings throughout the room. Hang works with plenty of negative space or employ a wide mount around the artwork to set the work apart from the wallpaper behind it. By framing a piece of art with a spacious white mount, you will ‘separate’ the art itself from the wallpaper behind it, giving it room to breathe and allowing you to see and study it without distraction.
PLEASE be careful when hanging pictures onto wallpaper. Wallpaper can be fragile. I would avoid tape and other adhesives, the marketing is good on these stripes but I have not found one that removes from wallpaper. Instead, I use these nail holds.
In order to minimize the damage, make sure you have the right spot before you start hammering. I always cut out the shape of the frame in brown paper first and move them around the room to ensure you have the positioning correct. This will help you avoid putting unnecessary holes in the wallpaper. Unlike with painted walls, it’s hard to hide holes in the wallpaper.
Another option is to cut an upside-down v in the wallpaper with a thin knife where you want to hang the frame. Then lightly pull the v down, and insert the nail or screw into the wall. If you end up wanting to move the photo, you can stick the wallpaper back in place.
But whatever layout you decide KEEP A SPIRIT LEVEL ON HAND
Honestly, I can't express the importance of a spirit level enough. There's nothing more annoying than stepping back to realise your whole gallery wall is wonky so make sure you use a spirit level to make sure each frame is straight before you hang it.