A gallery wall, or any large wall that displays an art collection is more than a trend in home decor. Where did the idea for the gallery wall come from? Is a gallery wall the best way to display an art collection? Art lovers and collectors find gallery walls perfect for displaying their favorite pieces. And the look can be either formal or informal.
The History of Gallery Walls in the Art World:
Gallery walls first appeared in the early 18th century, when artists’ work was sponsored by royal monarchs and wealthy patrons. Salon exhibitions were organized to display art for public view and sale. Venues like the Louvre in Paris used every inch of available space, hanging paintings from floor to ceiling.
As the popularity of these exhibitions grew, the style of display did, too. Art patrons and bohemian collectors, eager to show off their entire collections at home, adopted the style.
Images from the period show paintings crammed side-by-side and floor-to-ceiling. Visit a grand historic home or royal residence today, and you’ll still see paintings filling the walls. This grand hotel in Edinburgh uses a similar style that feels right at home in the space.
In times past, these gallery walls showed off the owner’s status as a patron of the arts and allowed him to enjoy the collection even when space was limited.
The Modern Gallery Wall:
Today’s gallery wall is an interior design choice. It continues to be one of the best ways to live with and enjoy an art collection, no matter how formal or informal. Here, a collection of similarly-framed vintage advertisements add a simple splash of color to an informal wall.
A gallery wall is a wonderful way to share interests and spark conversation. It can give order and a theme to art pieces that seem unrelated. A gallery wall can turn bohemian clutter or simple travel souvenirs into a strong visual statement.
If you’re unsure about putting holes in the wall, lay out your pieces on the floor first. Play with the arrangement.
Another method? Take photos of your pieces and move the paper versions around until you like the way it works. You’ll still want to measure to make sure everything fits.
There are many ways to approach hanging art, and there’s no truly right or wrong way to do it.
Creating a Themed Gallery Wall:
Building your gallery wall around a central theme is a fun, ongoing project. It can take years to collect a significant number of pieces, depending on how common or obscure your theme is.
The theme of the pieces lining this stairwell is simply “black and white”. The color scheme creates a sense of unity between pieces as varied as ancestral portraits and abstract photographs.
Do you collect music memorabilia or paint-by-number paintings? It might take a few months of shopping to fill a wall.
Below, the theme is obviously birds, with a few similar images of flora thrown in for good measure.
Sure, you can hang like with like (bird with bird, vintage map with vintage map). But for a little extra fun, throw in something that’s just slightly off, as the bird print collector did above.
Here’s another example. This colorful art collection is themed around faces. Obviously, we love it. Its hanging in the kitchen at the Boho Luxe Home design studio!
Collecting enough art for a large gallery wall might take years. If you collect floral paintings and prints, you’ll find a plentiful supply.
If you limit your collection to a single artist, certain flower, or specific time period, you’ll have a slower-growing collection. For many people, the fun is in finding each treasure, no matter how long it takes.
Themed gallery walls can be centered around almost anything and they don’t have to be limited to framed art. The wall above is in a shop. We love the vintage, manly fell of it. We especially like the idea of adding a three-dimensional piece, like the oar, into a gallery wall.
Seascapes can help create a calm, expansive feeling within a limited color palette. Landscapes bring the outdoors into spaces – and can add either pastoral shades of green and gold, or bright tropical hues.
You could also start with a more esoteric or conceptual theme – like this collection of organic “flight” themed canvases from Boho Luxe Home, featuring a Cameroonian juju hat image and vintage butterfly collections. Imagine adding a carved wooden wing or another item with a similar theme into the mix.
Rather than focusing on a particular subject matter, some collectors work around a color scheme.
Modern, abstract art pieces work great with a color-based theme. A floor-to-ceiling gallery wall of modern art in shades of green, for example, would be a dramatic addition to a mid-century modern room.
Color-themed gallery walls may include pottery, textiles, photography – even plants – to add texture and dimension.
Themed gallery walls can also happen unexpectedly. Some are jump-started by an inheritance or the gift of a few pieces; others grow out of travel souvenirs, or a marriage where the couple has shared – or even wildly opposite – tastes.
Once a few paintings or prints are hung on a large wall, many people are inspired to collect more, adding works that reflect special trips or milestones.
Curated Gallery Walls:
All gallery walls are “curated” to some extent – but it’s a creative juxtaposition of art and objects that creates an outstanding gallery wall. Just like a museum exhibition, a curated gallery wall contrasts various pieces to spark conversation.
When you visit a home with a curated gallery wall, the art pieces may appear unrelated to each other – but spend a little time, and you’ll find that the gallery’s “theme” is actually the unique taste of its owner. Pieces may still be chosen for their subject matter or colors, but personal interests, family history and memory play a role, too.
A curated gallery wall can be a mix of photos, paintings, sculpture, lighting, natural objects, and mementos. Combine everything for a true bohemian flair.
No matter what it’s made of, it’ll be a reflection of the person who created it – and it’ll probably never stop growing and evolving. Notice that there is plenty of room to keep adding to the collection (above), and to the totally informal one below. We adore the idea of clipboards to keep an ever-changing collection of art and ephemera on rotation.
Hanging Art Parisian Style:
If you don’t have a large, uninterrupted space for your dream gallery wall, consider hanging your art “Parisian Style”. This is an interior designer’s trick that has its roots in European salon style and tiny Parisian apartments. Choose a section of wall, and hang your art close together, floor to ceiling. In this stairwell for instance, the red wall features vintage engravings in golden frames.
This style of hanging works beautifully on short sections of wall like a stairwell – or flanking a fireplace, or in a small powder room, entryway or hall. Have similar prints or photos framed as a matched set, so you have a cohesive display. Or just go nuts!
Parisian art hanging is popular for sets of botanical or architectural prints. You’ve seen that look in magazines and on websites. However, it also works with any collection that’s carefully selected around a theme.
Here’s a absolutely gorgeous gallery wall by one of our favorite bloggers, Kelly at Street Flea Style.
Hanging art Parisian style also adds drama when you want to show off, basically — everything! As in this room, for instance. Completely over the top and we’re totally okay with that.
If you want things to look a little more organized, keep things in pairs or threes to provide a sense of order, and keep scale in mind.
If you’ve been collecting art for years, you may have lots of pieces stored away in closets or under the bed. Pull them out, update a few frames, and you have the makings of an awesome gallery wall. If you don’t have a huge collection yet, you have options.
Start collecting unique art pieces to mix in with flea market and gallery finds, like these metal art prints featuring bright reds, yellows and greens from Boho Luxe Home:
Or these moody, neoclassical and Moorish pieces also unexpectedly printed on metal:
If you have a different sort of collection, mix that into your gallery wall, too! Like this lovely display of framed, bakery-themed artwork and mismatched china.
Do you have a gallery wall in your home? We’d love to see it. If you’re planning one, do you a have a theme in mind? Tell us in the comments, below!