Over the years I have hung or helped to hang many art exhibits in galleries and other spaces. The shows I hung were usually of my own art, but last week I helped a good friend hang her abstract acrylic paintings in a downtown coffee shop in Ithaca, NY, called The Shop.
I prefer showing in galleries where the owner or curator selects, arranges, and hangs the art, but throughout an artist's career, especially when starting out, we take what opportunities come our way. My friend Linda Jaekel is restarting her career after a hiatus, so she was happy to have this opportunity at the coffee shop.
Reviewing the space and the hanging mechanism is the first step in planning a show. If you can put a nail in the wall, you have more options than other systems. In The Shop, there are metal rods placed a few inches from the ceiling, an inch or two from the walls. Metal hooks fit over the rods, and wire can be attached to the hooks at one end, then to the painting's hanging wire at the other.
This meant that we had to have wired the paintings as close to the top of the canvas, and as tight as possible. Otherwise the top of the painting would stick out at an angle from the wall. We learned this on our first attempt to hang the show.
Of course, before we got to that point, we decided where each painting would go on the walls. It's important to make sure images work well together and fit the selected spaces. Linda was very good at figuring this one out, and we only had to switch two paintings at the end to get it just right. I'm more of a "trial and error" person, but even I would line them all up before I start. Otherwise you could be at it all day.
It's a good idea to bring every tool you might possibly need, and a ladder, of course. These fit in Linda's car, along with the eleven paintings we were hanging. We found an empty table to set up our operation and began hanging in a section of the shop where no customers were sitting. Using our skill strengths, we worked out a routine--I did the wiring and Linda got up on the ladder to hang the paintings.
Two hours later, we looked with exhausted satisfaction upon the results of our work.