“I love trying to find pieces that dialogue — either in terms of textures, in terms of colors, in terms of what is represented — so that they feel connected with each other,” says Anne-Laure Lemaitre, an art adviser who has recently curated shows at Swivel Gallery and Kapp Kapp in New York. “You can have an abstract piece that is super-textured and a very precise drawing, but they both have something that connects them, like green and orange tones.” Or two portraits might be very different in feel, yet “they kind of talk to each other.”
But if you mix all types of media, like painting, photography or sculpture, or all types of framing, there’s a risk that the group can look a little confusing and be “a little rough on the eye,” Lemaitre says. She suggests trying a group of all black-and-white artworks or of pieces that are body-centric, that include, for example, a hand or profile.
After choosing the pieces you want to hang, shuffle them around on the floor until you like a composition. Start at the bottom, in the center, and work up and out. Don’t center the biggest piece of art. “It can create a massive focal point and everything else becomes almost peripheral,” Lemaitre says. One way to organize a cluster is by keeping the spacing between pieces consistent; another is to line up the tops, bottoms or sides of several pieces.
Once you’ve settled on an arrangement that you like, cut out pieces of brown paper that match the sizes of the things you want to hang and tape them to the wall. This, Lemaitre says, lets you “get a feel for the pieces” — that is, check the layout before you put them up.
If your space is limited and the cluster includes a wall-mounted television, make sure it is not at the center. “It can really participate in the hang, and not be a disservice to the hang, as long as it’s included in a way that doesn’t crush everything around it,” Lemaitre says. Ultimately, though, what you display, and how, depends on your own personal feeling, she says. “It’s a little bit like composing a painting and should be seen as one artwork made of multiple works.”