Mastering the art of the salon hang

A salon hang involves displaying a varied collection of artworks, in close juxtaposition, to achieve a unified visual effect.

The term derives from the manner in which artworks were displayed at Salon de Paris exhibitions from 1737 - works were tightly hung side-by-side, from the floor to the rafters, using every available space. This hanging style, intended to accommodate the maximum number of works, also produced a magnificent visual display.

In the 20th century, galleries began to favour displays that would enhance the viewer’s experience of each individual work. Accordingly, the visually dense salon hang was progressively replaced by more linear hangs, in which works were hung in eye-level rows, with each work surrounded by a large expanse of wall space.

Yet the salon hang remains popular today, both as an endearing way of displaying a number of small works, and as an effective way of bringing together an eclectic collection of loved pieces. Salon hangs can work equally well on a feature wall as they do in hallways and stairwells, and are ideal for art collectors who fret about having more works than wall space.

While effective salon hangs often have a common theme (such as a shared colour, medium, framing style, artist or subject matter), even markedly different works can be combined on a single wall to stunning visual effect. And this is one of beauties of a salon hang – there are no rules, so it is difficult to make a mistake. All you really need is a collection of separate pieces, and the confidence to display them together.

To try a salon hang in your own home or workplace, here are some tips to guide you on your way:

* Select your wall - Decide what wall space you will devote to the salon hang. This may be an entire feature wall, or an area above a sofa or side table.

* Assemble your chosen works - Gather together the pieces you wish to include in the hang.

* Identify your anchor - Select the piece that will be the anchor (focal point) for the hang. This may be the largest work, your favourite work or the most colourful – whatever your reason for choosing it, this is the work that will set the tone for the hang.

Start positioning - Starting with your anchor piece, lay out your chosen pieces on the floor, or on a nearby table.

* Make adjustments - Adjust the composition around your anchor piece until you achieve an aesthetically pleasing layout. Some tips to bear in mind:

-    Your anchor piece should generally be positioned close to the centre, as this is the focal point for your hang.

-    If you are using a variety of different works, then try to distribute the most similar pieces throughout the composition (for example, don’t put together works with similar frames). Spreading the most similar pieces throughout the composition will help to achieve balance and flow.

-    Avoid putting too much space between your chosen pieces. The aim of a salon hang is for individual works to be enjoyed together, so the best effect is achieved by hanging works in close proximity.

-    Trust your intuition. If you discover some of your chosen pieces just don’t fit, or that a different work becomes the obvious choice for the anchor, then allow yourself flexibility to add or remove works, or to change your proposed anchor piece.

-    Note that you do not need perfect symmetry or equal spacing between the works. An asymmetrical hang makes for a less formal composition, as if loved pieces have been added over time without measuring and matching.

-    If you prefer a more formal aesthetic, you may wish to introduce a strong visual theme – for example, by only incorporating works with similar frames, or portraying a similar subject matter.

-    Play around with the composition, until you achieve the effect that suits you best.

* Test the layout - To test the layout on the wall, before you start hammering in nails, cut out paper shapes of the same size as your chosen works. By positioning the shapes on the wall, you will see how your proposed layout fits within the space.

* Install your anchor - Once you are happy with the layout, hang your anchor piece.

* Work outwards - Once your anchor piece is in place, work outwards to hang your other pieces. Allow yourself flexibility to make adjustments as you go, according to what best suits your personal aesthetic. 

* Enjoy! - When the last artwork has been hung, stand back and behold your masterpiece!

Over time, you may decide to change the composition by rearranging works, switching out certain pieces, or introducing new elements.


For further information contact ZIMMERMAN - www.zimmerman.co.nz - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.