Displaying Art at Home

I couldn’t imagine living without art. Every time I move, art is the first order of unpacking business–and until it is on the walls, an apartment cannot feel like home.

Suffice it to say, as a New Yorker with an art habit, a theme has emerged: little wall space and lots to hang.

I have never shied away from hanging works in clusters or “salon style,” but I’ve always been careful not to overcrowd a surface. Too much art, and I can’t appreciate each piece. Too little, and most of my collection remains in a closet. Below, I have a few snapshots showing how I’ve chosen to display art in my 700 square foot home!

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Here’s the main wall in my apartment, organized in clusters. On the right are some fabulous prints after 19th century engravings; on the left are works by self-taught and contemporary artists.

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A better look at the cluster seen above, including works by JJ Cromer and Chris Hipkiss, among others.

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Further along that main wall, into the hallway: two fantastic large drawings by Thornton Dial as well as works by Donald Mitchell, Shepard Fairey, and others. One of the problems with a small New York apartment is getting enough distance from a work to read it in its entirety, so I’ve placed the Dials (the largest works I own) in the space where the hallway opens to the living room. That way, you can both encounter them up close, and then step back to read them from a distance:

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Also in the hallway is a play on black and white and different textures: an etching by Swoon, and a drip painting by Paul Richard.

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I have never believed that works need to be hung together based solely on their time/point of origin, material, or defined genre. All sorts of interesting combinations of objects can emerge if you let them. Here, I have a paper mache giraffe head, an Edward Tufte chart, and a fabulous watercolor of a morel mushroom with goat legs by Amy Ross. I’ve arranged them together based on color and scale, and I think each is made more interesting because of the conversation between the three.


And, lest you think art is reserved for walls, I’ve made excellent use of built-in bookshelves as well! Here, I have a bird shadowbox, a duck decoy, and a drawing by Malcolm McKesson. While most of my shelves are used for books (and, as an art historian, I have PLENTY of beautiful books), every once in a while, it’s nice to reserve a nook for an intimate cluster of objects. These pieces, which are relatively small, would get lost on a larger wall. In such an enclosed space, however, they have a chance to shine.