The Art of Displaying Art: 5 Steps to Success

Art collecting has boomed in recent years and is an essential component of any luxury interior, but with the undeniable pleasures of enjoying original artwork at home comes a raft of complexities. How to choose, arrange, frame and light artwork is a multifaceted issue: get it right and it can immeasurably enhance a space, get it wrong and it can make a space feel flat and unbalanced, not to mention wasting the talents of the artist themselves. Arkitexture spoke to several experts in their field to gleam their best tips for success.

The right space

Interior designer April Russell has a particular enthusiasm and expertise for making her clients’ art collections look their best. “It’s really important to have space to appreciate the art – something big and powerful might need to be on its own,” she says. “We look at the collection as a whole and what rooms will suit what piece, to determine a balance.” She also recommends creating ‘pockets’ of space from where a piece of art can be best viewed, such as a sitting area, from where you can relax and contemplate a work.

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A single colourful painting in a drawing room designed by April Russell: “something big and powerful might need to be on its own,” she says

Have a conversation

Interior designer Shalini Misra often curates and adds to her clients’ art collections, and suggests that a room looks right when all the artwork is having a conversation: “They may all be from different periods or sizes but they should ‘talk’ to one another.” Keep one element the same, such as your art’s colour palette, and it should link them all together, even if they are on a different scale or in different media. Misra often uses art as a starting point for the colours and materials she uses in a wider interiors scheme. One of her favourite places for art is on the staircase: “The light filters well into staircases at different points of the day, and you also get to see the art from lots of different angles as you move around it.”

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Sahlini Misra likes to hang art on staircases because of the way people can move around it; the purple balustrade picks up on the colours in this Candida Höfer photograph

Arranging multiple pieces

Freelance photography consultant Genevieve Janvrin has some advice on hanging photography that is equally relevant to all kinds of two-dimensional art. “Photographs by the same artist, particularly smaller format works, suit being hung in a triptych or a grid format. When hanging photographs in rows, look at the images and think of it like a sentence. Read the images from left to right – which one would make a good full stop?” She recommends picture shelves if you have lots of art, none of which is too big. “This gives you the ability to change them around, and I love to see images overlapping each other.”

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Picture shelves allow you to move art around as often as you like, says photography expert Genevieve Janvrin

Balanced lighting

If you want to light your artwork effectively and unobtrusively, you need to think about it early on in a project, since electrical work is usually disruptive. Harry Triggs and Andrew Molyneux of TM Lighting are the go-to experts for architects and designers who need to light artwork to professional standards. “We try to light art in the home in such a way that you can see the artwork in its true colour and as naturally as possible – it’s as much of a crime to over-light a painting as it is to not have enough light. So we would put enough light onto the art to see it, but not so much that it appears obviously lit. It’s a fine balance.” They say that contemporary artwork often lends itself to being lit with a ‘cooler’ colour temperature (3500K to 4000K and above), while classical and traditional works usually work better with warmer colour temperatures (2700K or 3000K).

Works by Sir Peter Lely at Weston Park, Shropshire, lit by TM’s Picture Light

Art by Sir Peter Lely, lit by TM Lighting, at Shropshire’s Weston Park

In the frame

If you’re serious about preserving your art for future generations, Kate Jones of master framers John Jones London recommends museum-quality framing. This isn’t quite as daunting as it sounds: most professional framers will use materials that are inert and non-damaging as possible, including acid-free mounting card and UV-protection glass. From a simple acrylic shallow box to an elaborately gilded example, the frame can make a huge difference to how a work of art is viewed: you can play around with unexpected contrasts – contemporary art in a traditional frame, or vice versa – or enhance period accuracy in older properties. Jones says “we can turn the frame up or down – ie, it can be invisible or make a statement.”

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A professional framer such as John Jones London can give solid, expert advice on the how to hang for optimum impact

Main image: An art-filled loft designed by Charles Zana © Francesca Mantovani

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