How NOT to Hang Art


Who hung this show?

Who hung this show?

What’s wrong with this picture?

No, it’s not that the center painting is “pornographic” and “a danger to children and vulnerable adults.”

It’s the aesthetic cacophony.

Friends, there is no better way to have your art installation scream, “I was curated on a shoestring budget and installed in a hallway by a bunch of rank amateurs” than to hang an erotic masterpiece between six charmingly innocuous landscapes. You are not doing yourselves, your artists or your audience any favors.

With the possible exception of the artblog crowd, those of your viewers who appreciate the verve of the center painting are going to find the surrounding images to be superfluous, if not actual kitsch. Patrons wishing to purchase a small, tasteful landscape for their homes will experience mild brain freeze when they encounter this juxtaposition, and in their confusion, wander off in search of ice cream.

For those of you charged with hanging a salon-style show, with styles as diverse as these, I offer this hint: divide your installation into groupings that have internal poetic resonance.

This does not mean that you have to put nudes on one wall, landscapes on another, and the fake fur dipped in blue paint in a room of its own. It does mean that you pay attention to abstract similarities among pieces, and arrange them so that they echo one another.

To take an example not at random: the color palette in the above portrait relies heavily on sepia, taupe and olive tones; it has a retro feel to it, like a 1940’s pinup. The landscapes, on the other hand, are handled with an almost Kinkade-like floridity. Any object–a nude, a yarn wall-hanging, even the fake fur–in a similar array of brights would cozy up to them nicely.

If you really, truly have insufficient wall space to hang this portrait in magnificent solitude, some sober pen-and-ink sketches could set it off to perfection. Or some assemblage. Or a few pages of a comic book.

Really, anything would have been better than this.