Expert Advice: 10 Tips on Displaying Art at Home
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Janet Bishop is the curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Her most recent exhibition— The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde —reunited the collections of Gertrude Stein and her family, who installed the art in their Paris apartments salon-style. We asked Janet to give us advice on how we should go about displaying art in our own homes. Here's what she has to say: Above: Janet Bishop at SFMoMA, photo by Kat Wade for the San Francisco Chronicle . RM: Any advice on how to hang and display art? JB: As a rule of thumb, hanging art on a center line of 58 to 60 inches works well. When stacking or clustering works, take into account the total height, including the space you envision between the frames, and center that. Of course there are adjustments to be made to accommodate furniture and whatever architectural detail the spaces might have. Hanging art in domestic spaces is trickier than working in the white box of the gallery. Above: Photograph by Kristian Septimius via Arkpad . RM: Should we avoid sunlight? JB: You wouldn’t want to put works on paper or photographs in areas that are flooded with sunlight, especially watercolors or color photographs, which can easily fade. My flat is sunny and I gravitate to works on paper. Since I’m not as vigilant about rotating the art I live with as we are at SFMoMA, I pay a little more for UV Plexiglas when I get things framed. Above: Paint color samples for the Steins Collect show. Read how Jennifer Sonderby, head of graphic design at SFMoMA , went about the process. RM: Gallery white? What color do you use and would you use it in a home? JB: At SFMoMA, our default color is a custom white by Dunn Edwards . Before our Third Street building opened, our exhibitions designer developed it with a paint specialist, taking into account the varied character of the art we show and the particular nature of our lighting. Anyone can order it, but I prefer a little more tone on my walls at home. My current favorite is Benjamin Moore’s Seapearl —a pale warm gray. When my husband first painted a sample for me, he said, “Well, we’re certainly not going to shock the neighbors.” I love the way art looks against it. RM: Pet peeve? JB: It always makes me a little sad is when I visit a lovely home that has no art at all—maybe some framed posters and family photographs, but not much more. Above: Art displayed in Vanessa Bruno's Loft in Paris. RM: Art and scale—advice on how to live with large pieces of art? JB: I like to see a mix of small and large works in a home—things that you need to get up close to in order to fully appreciate, and larger ones, that offer focal points in a room. For paintings or other works that are too tall to hang on a center line, it often works to place them around 15 inches off the floor. Above: Sam Francis self-portraits framed by Peter Kirkeby . RM: Framing tips? JB: I generally prefer wooden frames with simple profiles that complement but don’t distract. Sterling Art Services has many options and does excellent work. I also really love Peter Kirkeby’s hardwood frames. With works on paper, it is nice to float the whole sheet if you can rather than using an over-mat. And make sure there is a little space between the glazing and the surface of the artwork. Let the art breathe in its frame. Mark Rothko's No. 14 at SFMoMA; photograph by Alex Fradkin . RM: Art on a budget? JB: Bay Area presses like Crown Point in San Francisco and Paulson Bott in Berkeley both work with terrific rosters of contemporary artists. Because the etchings are editioned, they tend to be reasonably priced compared to a drawing or painting by the same artist. Above: Oil, graphite on canvas by Kathryn VanDyke from an exhibition at Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco. RM: Your greatest art find? JB: The art that I have at home is mostly by friends or local artists I’ve worked with (or by my father-in-law, who made wooden birds and boat models). Some years back, I picked up three watercolors of spiderwebs by Kathryn VanDyke from a sale of postcard-sized art at Four Walls in San Francisco. I'm pretty sure they were $2 each. (Biggest gap between bill for art and bill for framing.) Above: Tauba Auerbach “Tetrachromat” at Bergen Kunsthall via Mousse Magazine . RM: Whose work would you like to own now...(money no object). JB: I’d say one of Tauba Auerbach “Fold” paintings. They are just stunningly beautiful. Although I’d need a bigger house to go with it. To see an artist and family in their own home, see our recent post on a Renovated Warehouse Studio in London .