If you are setting up an exhibition space on a budget, you are going to like the solution we came up with for our gallery hanging system. This post will help you literally get behind the artworks to a see a simple but sturdy hanging system, DIY style.
There are high quality hanging systems out there that allow you to adjust the height of a painting with the push of a button. You get what you pay for and we at Green Olive Arts knew we couldn’t pay for such a system. So as I scoured the web for ideas, I stumbled upon someone’s idea* to use electrical ground lugs as the tiny adjustable mechanism behind the painting. A trip to Home Depot while we were in the states netted a variety of these lugs (avg. $1.50/ea) and we were on our way.
The hanging channel is made from aluminum curtain channel available at the local hardware store for less than $4/meter. First drill 1/4″ holes all the way through the face and back of the channel at 30″ intervals (preferably with a drill press). Then drill 1/2″ holes through the face only using the 1/4″ holes as pilots … this will allow you to insert and tighten pan-head screws as you anchor the channel to the wall. A small metal file or some sandpaper will help to tidy up the holes where aluminum burrs stick out. #10 Plastic wall anchors were used in our brick and plaster walls to mount the channels 8-9′ from the floor.
These curtain channels come with plastic sliders, which we use for most artworks … but for heavier pieces I fashioned some metal sliders by bending some stainless cabinet mounts. Below you can see two different sliders in the wall-mounted channel.
Next, you need a strong but unobtrusive cable to hang from these slides and which you will feed through the hanger lugs. I tried some strong white string, but the lugs slide down them under weight, even when tightened well. For most artworks, a heavy-weight fishing line works well and is nearly invisible against the walls. To make these hanger lines, I bent the end of a 60″ piece of line back on itself and coiled a thin piece of wire tightly around the end to form a loop. I crimped this wire with pliers as well.
The aluminum channel comes with end caps that have a built-in eye for hanging at the very end of the channel if you need it. This also keeps the slides from falling out.
For heavier works, you will want to have some steel cable hanger lines. For this you can purchase plastic coated (or uncoated) steel fishing leader (at varying strengths/thicknesses) in rolls and cut the lengths you need. I bought some 100-pound test stuff that actually came with tiny steel ferrules or tubes that you crimp with pliers to create a loop at the end. The steel cable shows a bit more on the wall but is still quite unobtrusive.
Below you can see all the parts and tools together, ready to hang some artwork!
To fasten a painting to the hanger lines or cables, you now have basically two options. You can attach to the picture wire already mounted across the back of an artwork or you can actually mount the hanger lug directly to the artwork itself. I prefer to mount the lug to the artwork because it allows the art to hang closer to the wall … closer to vertical or flat. Here’s how I mount the hanger lugs to the back of an artwork.
When you utilize the picture wire, as you well know, the painting tilts out from the wall. In some cases this may be preferable … but when your lighting is aimed from a high angle, this can be problematic. See the comparison in the image below … the more upright pieces are hung with the lugs mounted directly to the paintings.
Tighten the screw so that you can barely turn or move the lug side-to-side with your bare fingers … This will allow you to adjust the levelness of the painting ever so slightly when it is hanging in place.
To hang the painting, feed the cable of your choice (already hanging from the channel) through the hanger lug’s hole, slide it to the desired height and tighten the set screw firmly to the cable. Nudge the lug left or right to adjust how level the painting hangs.
Come for an art residency at Green Olive Arts and you can hang a whole new series of YOUR paintings on this system for an exhibition in Tetouan, Morocco! Talk about DIY!
Stay tuned for an update, too, in which we’ll show you the aesthetic solution to hiding those ugly aluminum channels!