Margaret Stermer-Cox with Paintings

Hanging Art Shows: Tips and Plans


My purpose today is to share some tips and ideas about hanging art shows outside the home or studio.  Planning and preparation are key to an efficient and smooth operation.

Recently, I was talking to one of  my sisters about hanging art shows.  My sister has hung art shows in her home, but not in a gallery type venue.  She is getting ready to hang a show of my Father’s artwork in Albuquerque this November.   As I started sharing tips, it occurred to me that this might be something to share with others.

Margaret Stermer-Cox with Paintings
Successful Hanging Day

Hanging Art At Home – v – Not Home

There is a big difference between hanging an art show in your home or studio and hanging in a gallery or non-traditional venue.  Here are some major considerations:

  • Time.  You may have limited access to the gallery space.  The show must be hung within a defined timeframe.
  • Materials.  You may have to bring all the hanging materials with you; do not assume the venue will provide them.
  • Assistance.  The venue may or may not have someone available to assist you.  You may need to bring your own help.

Put another way, when you’re hanging in your studio or home, you control the situation and deadlines.  You can be as efficient as you want to be.  However, in a gallery or non-traditional venue (cafe, coffee house, winery) you will have constraints based on the venue’s daily operations.

Tape measure - essential tool
Tape measure – essential tool


My husband and I have had the pleasure of hanging several shows.  Some of them we have had to travel several hours to; some were in a different state.  In order to accomplish our task of hanging the artwork within the allotted time, we had to get efficient and establish procedures.  We pre-plan the operation and have assigned duties.  My husband hangs; I assist and am the gopher.


  • Think through the hardware that you will need; create a “hanging day” toolbox.  I have such a toolbox and a list of essential ingredients.
  • If possible, get the wall dimensions.  Once you have the wall dimension, you can develop a hanging plan*
  • Create checklists for tools, equipment and documentation.  Please see checklists at the bottom of the page
  • Take extra paintings just in case and changes in situations
  • Preplan and, have a “plan b” with a little redundancy.

Art Plan

* Here a step-by-step outline of how to develop your hanging art plan.

  • Get the dimensions (height & width) of each wall or space available to you.
  • Get the dimensions of the framed artwork you wish to display.
  • Consider the margins, or how much space you want around you
  • Then its a matter of arranging and adding up measurements.

For example:  Wall space equal 70 inches wide.  I have five paintings I am considering.   There widths are 14.5, 22.5,  23, 20 and 14 inches respectively.  If I wanted to hang 22.5+23+20 paintings, I’d have 65.5 inches committed to paintings.  That only leaves me 4.5 inches between the three paintings (two spaces equaling 2.25 inches).  Maybe that’s OK; maybe that’s too crowded.  That will may be an issue decided on hanging day.  Its a matter of style.

I like to come up with two or three options.  I present them to my husband.  The final decision on layout is usually made on hanging day.


In summary, taking the time to plan and prepare before art hanging day may help you have a smooth, efficient operation.

And, what to do when you’re done?  I might go have a nice cup of espresso with a fudge brownie to celebrate a smooth art hanging operation.   How about you?  And, for those of you who have done art hanging operations, suggestions?  Your lessons learned?

Sample Checklists

Equipment Checklist
Equipment Checklist
Sample Document Checklist
Sample Document Checklist

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