Lessons From Artists on Hanging Art

Art can intimidate. Often pricey, it can seem imposingly precious—which is why many people take a reverent, by-the-numbers approach to hanging it in their home: on white walls with the center of the print or painting gallery-ready at 57 inches above the floor. Visit the homes of artists, however, and you’ll see that they treat artworks like members of the family, leaning pictures casually against walls or fearlessly displaying sculptures against patterned wallpaper.

That approach, documented in several books out this fall, is one we can all learn from. Marcia Prentice, author of the forthcoming “How We Live” (teNeues), said that a key principle is to look broadly and care deeply: “Creative people are bringing in art from a lot of different sources,” she said. “They don’t feel intimidated by the art—they’re just picking up the pieces that they love.”

That can mean incorporating personal effects, said Stacey Goergen, who co-authored this month’s “Artists Living with Art” (Abrams) with Amanda Benchley. Family mementos are as important as major artworks for art photographer Laurie Simmons and her husband, painter Carroll Dunham. In the living room of their northwestern Connecticut home, the couple has juxtaposed a Sarah Charlesworth photograph with a sculpture by Carl D’Alvia and a work by their daughter Grace. “Laurie mixes a well-known photographer with a mid-career sculptor and then [a piece] made by their daughter when she was in high school,” Ms. Goergen said.

A relaxed attitude also makes a difference when you’re trying to live with art more organically. Throw up a nail and try something, or rotate works regularly. For artists, “it’s not fixed,” Ms. Benchley said. “It’s a more fluid attitude than in a museum. If it doesn’t work, move it.” Here are some strategies you should feel free to borrow from creative insiders.

Introduce Art in Unexpected Places

What do we do at home? We sit—on our sofas and on our Wassily chairs. In his Edinburgh apartment, interior designer Sam Buckley realized that adding art to the living room’s lower half would acknowledge the vantage points of those who were seated. “If you hang art at eye level when you’re standing up, when you sit down you feel as if everything is happening above you,” Mr. Buckley said of this more relaxed approach. “So I’ve got two or three pieces of art just stacked on the floor to give that feeling of inclusion when you’re sitting.” Near the Lucie Bennett drawing that leans against the wall, he installed a cascade of paper lamps with adjustable heights that he found on Etsy, which move the eye vertically. Elsewhere, he hung a small print under the chair rail.

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Originally published on The Wall Street Journal

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