How to Hang Art Like a Pro

Seattle Art Museum and Museum Quality Framing art experts tell us the dos and don’ts of displaying art—and why we’ve been doing it all wrong.

By Angela Cabotaje December 1, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Seattle Met

This past spring, I decided to hang my favorite aqua blue abstract in my dining room. How difficult can it be? I grabbed a hammer and pounded two nails into the drywall. Two weeks later—after finding my prized piece swinging precariously from a single nail, the other nail bent on the floor—I realized it can be pretty dang difficult. So I asked two art experts to share their art-displaying dos and don’ts. Here’s what I learned.

Hooks Wisely

Skip the hammer and nail, which can damage drywall or fall out. At Seattle Art Museum, Manojlovic opts for wall mounts, which are suitable for valuable pieces that risk being jostled. For other works, Swent suggests Floreat picture hangers, which feature J-shaped hooks and angled nails that are designed to evenly distribute weight. 


Seattle Art Museum limits the amount of light in its exhibition halls to protect works from discolration
and damage. To try this at home, Swent suggests hanging art on walls that don’t receive direct light from windows or lamps. Another option is a frame with conservation glass, which has a protective UV filter or glare-reducing glass.

Measure for Height

Artwork should sit at eye level, which according to Manojlovic, is “60 inches on center.”

Translation: The center of a piece of art should rest 60 inches from the floor, give or take a few inches to account for ceiling height and the average height of a home’s occupants.

Matting Matters

A mat—the paperboard border inside the frame—helps protect the work and also acts as a visual resting place, which is especially important if the piece is busy or colorful. As a general rule, matting should be twice as thick as the frame. “If you have the mat and frame exactly the same width, it can look kind of stagnant,” explains Swent. 

Consider the Frame

Choose a frame that complements the piece of art. Swent says the mood and style of a piece should guide the frame’s design. “Say it’s a drawing of a nude,” Swent says. “You’re going to want a frame that has a soft, curvy shape to replicate the subject matter.”


This feature appeared in the December 2014 issue of Seattle Met magazine.

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