Home > Artist Tips, Uncategorized > Artist Tip: Hanging Multiple Works

Artist Tip: Hanging Multiple Works

I always try to help hang (and dismantle) the alumni show on the fifth floor of the library at Columbia College.  I bring a notebook and a calculator, a pencil, a heavy duty tape measure, a hammer, a canvas tool belt with pockets for nails and my small pocket level.  The area is really tough to work with; the floors slope and the ceiling is totally uneven.  Dealing with the space gets even trickier when trying to hang a group of works together.

The artist that made these nine wall-mounted paper sculptures helped me hang them.  Each is like a creche with a doll-like female figure inside.  This is a rare instance where having someone help me was a huge benefit, because I usually like to work alone.  This is the most complicated group of art works I have ever helped display.  Each work was a different size and had a loop of thin fishing line on the back to support the sculpture, but the loop was not centered on any of them.  The good news was that they were very light and not too delicate.  I would not want to drop one of them but they were not going to dissolve if I sneezed.  The bad news was that they were all unique and organic.  None of them were symmetrical.

I wanted the center of each in a line and for them to be as evenly spaced apart as possible.  I wanted them to be together and coherent -gallery style- and not stuck on the wall willy nilly like tschotchkas.  They needed just enough space apart to show their individuality; having the centers line up would reinforce them as a collection.

I measured from ceiling to floor to find the center of the wall to put the center of the art work at a height of 65 inches.  Standard “center of an artwork” is usually 60 inches.  The library alumni show is hung higher than standard because of desks and book cases being in the room and blocking line of sight.  We lay the art on the floor in the order that artist wanted them displayed and I found the center of the wall from right to left.  I usually make light pencil marks on the wall to keep my place.  It’s easy to erase a pencil mark if an adjustment is needed.

Then I measured the height and width of each sculpture and where the loop of fishing line was in relation to the bottom edge of each one.  That was needed to find the center on the varied works.  If you are ever able to plot out the scheme for hanging multiple works [size of the walls / space and the dimensions of the art] then absolutely do the math, draw diagrams and have your hanging plans all ready on paper in advance. With this show, I have no idea what is going up until the day of installation.  I did a lot of addition and subtraction for this series to get each center aligned.  At least a third of the time, we stood back and even though the math checked out, the placement did not look good.  This was also a weird time where “eyeball it” won out over mathematics.  I moved some nails and adjusted a few that were at the wrong height from the floor or wrong distance from its nearest work.  Since I started with the center, I did not move on to the next piece until the one in front of me was definitely right.  Starting from the center and doing one at a time moving outward was a good problem solver.

If I have to hang a series of works like this again, I am going to try a trick I thought of long after the installation.  I am going to bring some tape and string which I can use to make a line for my center.  Instead of measuring all the time or making pencil marks for pieces being moved around , I can pull the string taught, tape it in place and use the level to make sure it is straight.  I can use my bubble level to make sure my string is level and even.  That way, I can just look at the string taped to the wall and know it represents 65 inches in height from the floor.  I think this may give me a point of reference to measure from that may be faster than diagramming all of the dimensions of the series out with math on paper and help with the sloping floors and variable ceiling.  If the bubble is level, the string is level, the works will be level.

Categories: Artist Tips, Uncategorized
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