And so the time has come… Exhibition day is almost upon you. You’ve loaded up the back of your compact car with all your artworks in such a way that you would think that your vehicle must defy the laws of the universe by having more interior space than is indicated by its exterior dimensions. Rear vision mirror view safety has made way for bubble wrap and canvas.
You walk through the gallery door, not sure what to expect…
If this is a commercial gallery then the chances are that this is where you now leave the creations that you have slaved over so lovingly during the preceding months, now to be hung by the Gallery staff. The presentation of your artistic genius is in their hands.
If this is a community or self hosted exhibition then its now all up to you and you have a very short time to get everything up on the walls ready to stun your visitors with your all round clever-clogness. The white cube of space echoes as you walk around inside. Blank. Empty and possibly a bit intimidating.
Questions race through your mind.
“Do I have enough artwork to fill this vast void?”
Yes of course you do! You measured the space before you started preparing for the exhibition. (You did, didn’t you? )
“Will it look any good?”
Yes it will. Here’s a gallery secret. Those bright white halogen track lights on the ceiling make just about everything look a million dollars.
“Is my art a load of rubbish and should I leave now?”
It’s too late. You’ve sent out all the invitations and the opening night party is tomorrow. Don’t worry. You are brilliant (*insert addition pep talk phrase of your own choice here).
“Where is the ladder?”
Probably in the store room.
Gallery Hanging Systems
Most galleries that host artist run exhibitions have some kind of hanging system. Ideally it will be the adjustable kind with clear nylon hangers that drop from the ceiling and down the wall, with little metal adjustable hooks. Its best to find out though way before the time of your exhibition and have all your artworks prepared ready for hanging.
I like to be prepared for the unexpected, so I carry a little red tool box containing all manner of hanging related bits and bobs. Mine has within it spare wire and string, screws, wall hooks, nails, wire, gaffa tape, removable double sided sticky pads, blu-tak, an assortment of small tools including a hammer, screwdrivers and my trusty bradall tool for making small holes. I’ve had to use it at just about every exhibition I’ve ever hung. I suggest you pack your own ‘survival kit’ similarly.
Okay, time to bump in (not literally; this is the show-speak term for setting up your exhibition. Later you will ‘bump out’).
The first thing to do is to unload the car and stack all the artworks around the walls on the floor. Don’t hang them yet and don’t be too fussy. Just drop them around the room in semi-organised thematic groups so you can see them all, placing any large feature pieces in the rough vicinity of where they might eventually hang.The thematic groups can be whatever you want them to be. Maybe it’s colour, maybe it’s subject matter. Maybe there’s a narrative story which guides the hanging. It could be just whatever looks good together. Decide early on and your job will be easier.
Stand in the middle of the room and look around. Do all the artworks ‘work’ together? You will have to use some imagination as all the artworks are currently sitting on the floor.
Start sorting and moving the artworks around the walls (on the floor – don’t hang yet). Usually I find that at this stage that the artworks that don’t fit with each other stand out, and ‘call me’ to move them. The really good feature pieces that I want everyone to see get prime position, and I organised the others around them.
Got them sorted into groups? Good. Look at how all the groups work. You might have to swap entire groups around the room if they don’t play well together.