When people think of museums, the hardware is usually the last thing that comes to mind. We associate museums with art, sculptures, installations, dioramas, etc. But the fact is that none of these could be correctly displayed if it weren’t for the right picture hanging hardware. This includes a rail that’s mounted on the wall or the ceiling, cables or rods and hooks.
This makes the system sound pretty simplistic. But there are several options to choose from when it comes to rails, cables, rods and hooks. You can select the ones that are strong enough to display what you want to display. Or you can choose an adjustable system that can be used to display a number of different artworks with different weights.
Thinking of a museum in this way makes it sound very technical, but there is a beauty that lies in what goes on behind the scenes and what’s visible to the viewer. Museum hardware is like the skeleton on which all the artworks hang. It’s what holds the entire museum together. It goes unnoticed, but it serves an essential purpose.
There’s a lot more to a museum than just artwork. When most people go to a museum to see what they’ve been told is an important work of art, they usually don’t know that much about it. So they’re looking for information as much as the subjective experience of seeing artwork.
This is the reason why most museums also give you some information about the artwork. This information includes the artist, the era in which the artwork was painted, the artist’s inspiration, etc. These details enrich the viewer’s appreciation of the artwork and give them some basis for judgment.
Yes, you can look at an artwork and decide whether you love it, hate it or are indifferent to it. But when you learn more about the artwork and the artist, this adds another layer of comprehension and engages more of your brain and your emotions.
Framing the Artwork
Another essential element of hanging artwork is the frame. What kind of frame would best suit that artwork? Many older paintings are displayed in glorious frames, which seem like works of art themselves! However, new artworks may use more minimalistic frames or even eschew frames altogether.
Sometimes, the artist decides what kind of frame should be used with specific artwork. But more often, it’s the museum curator. This is the person who makes all the decisions about frames, informational plaques, museum hardware, etc.
To curate an exhibit in a museum, you have to juggle aesthetics and practicality. Not only do you need to decide what artworks to hang and in what order, but you also need to make decisions concerning their presentation. Because let’s face it, presentation is everything.
The Story of the Impressionists
Presentation is why the Impressionists chose to start their own gallery instead of submitting their works to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The exhibits of the Académie were so overcrowded that Monet and his cronies found that their works were rarely if ever, displayed at eye level.
Rather than keep competing with a number of other artists year after year, they thought it would be better to open their gallery to give their paintings the display they deserved. And the result is that the Impressionists are probably the most famous artists in the public imagination today.