The Laws of Nature

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Where Does Your Art Hang?

Aphrodite of Milos a.k.a. Venus de Milo attributed to Alexandros of Antioch, 130 - 100 B.C.

The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

A millionaire will own wonderful pictures and hang them in a light where you can't half see them. Some are even proud of the report, "Why, he has Corots in the kitchen - Daubignys in the cellar!"
If it is up to the artist to make the best pictures he can possibly make, it is up to the owners to present them to the very best advantage. (p. 77)

While it's true that we artists seldom have control over where our art will hang once it leaves our possession, we hope that it won't end up in someone's bathroom, basement, or attic. Sometimes patrons contact me to let me know where they've hung my work, but I really don't worry about it too much. I figure that when someone spends a lot of money to purchase my work they'll hang it in a good place. But, I never assume that it will be hung at the correct height or properly lit.

I'm always curious to see how public art is displayed. Initially, great care is given, but over time neglect leads to improper illumination and degraded materials. It's sad to see a rusting statue or a cracked and dirty painting or mural. This is when art becomes part of the background, something that people don't even notice any more. Perhaps this is also what happens to art that we hang in our homes. Once the novelty of a new painting or sculpture has worn off, how often do we gaze upon it? I do have some favorite paintings that I savor, but most of my hanging art is overlooked after awhile. To remediate that problem, I move paintings around every year or two so I can rediscover why I love and value the art I've collected.

The Venus de Milo is a better example. Way back when, between 130 - 100 BC, someone of rank and wealth commissioned this statue's creation. Subsequently, in the millenia between then and 1820 AD, when a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas discovered it buried in some ancient city ruins of Milos, the statue was damaged. The arms were broken off and never restored. Was it by accident or deliberate vandalism? Why was it never restored? Was it no longer valued? Today, The Venus is properly displayed sans arms at The Louvre where it is considered valuable and is once again appreciated as one of the great treasures of the art world.

Where does your art hang?
Where will your art will hang in a few millenia?
Does it matter to you?


Margaret Ryall said...

i does matter to me where my work is hung but I rarely get to see it once it leaves my studio unless it is in a friend's house. I have never has anyone let me know where my art has ended up though. That must be nice to know. Early in my career I had to develop a thick skin and send my work out into the world with hope that it will be appreciated and cared for.

The work I have hung in my house is appreciated on a daily basis. I never tire of looking at what I;ve collected and like you I change things around.

I have no issues with work(not bothered by dampness) being hung in bathrooms. Many people take this as an insult but where else do you get such undivided viewer's attention? I also have a lovely collection in my laundry room.

Casey Klahn said...

"Being an artist is like this: you paint, and then you prepare to fight."

This is a quote I found at artist Maria Parenteau's blog.

The premise of this post is frightening when you think about it. I use 500 year museum card to put my lovely, durable pastels on - thinking the whole time about how lightfast these babies are.

Maybe I don't want to sell them at all, huh? But, OTOH, maybe their lives needs patronage to survive, in spite of the risks.

Did you ever hear about the large format films that Frank Sinatra made of himself singing his songs? He was at the absolute nadir of his career (1950's I guess) and he payed out-of-pocket to film himself in full profile, on a bare set, singing his top hits. He had incredible foresight and strength of will, IMO.

Kathy said...

Hi Margaret- you have a good point: maybe the bathroom is the perfect place!

Hi Casey - an interesting quote, but I'm not very combatitive. Either people like my work or they don't. I, too, use archival materials which means that I hope my work will endure as long as possible. I hadn't heard that story about Frank Sinatra, and am impressed by his foresight.

hwfarber said...

I have seen my work in buyer's living rooms but have no concern about where they hang it. I have art in my bathrooms, kitchen and utility room. I inherited the collector's gene so some pieces end up in closets; I pull them out occasionally and appreciate them.

I have thought about your blog from several weeks ago--titled vs. untitled. When I see a painting in someone's house I never ask about the title; I just look at the work. In a gallery, museum or book, however, I want a title. Odd.

Anonymous said...

My art hangs everywhere in our home and outside too. We have never collected expensive art- the art we have around is changed every few years or so. I envision my left over art sitting in some obscure corner of some country flea market.

Carolina Moon Arts Studio said...

I always like to find good homes for my babies! But my greatest fear is that my artwork will show up in a garage or estate sale someday, dusty and moldy!! But that is out of my control once it leaves me.

I have artwork all over my home including the bathroom and i never tire of the pieces i have collected because there was always something that attracted me to it in the first place and that doesn't change.

Myrna Wacknov said...

I am in the process of letting go of the preciousness of my work and concentrating on the process of creating it. The value for me is in "the doing". How people evaluate or value my work after it is done varies from individual to individual. I may be famous some day or not! I only worry about my work surviving as long as I do, then it is someone else's problem, probably my kids. What are they going to do with all those paintings? I do use quality, light fast materials whenever possible but I have also used bleach with ink and other odd ideas. No one knows how YUPO is going to stand up to time, yet a master artist has devoted much of his career to working on this material. Cardboard from the impressionist period has lasted for 100 years.

Kathy said...

Hi Hallie - that IS interesting. Maybe the reason is that when you go to a museum you might be on a mission to understand the art in a more meaningful way and so the title is more important in that situation. Just a guess...

Hi Pam - or ... maybe your art will hang in The Louvre!

Hi Carolyn - it's great that you connect with your art collection so well. I tend to not see them anymore if they hang in the same place too long.

Hi Myrna- it is interesting how long cardboard can last. About five years ago I saw some of Jamie Wyeth's work and was astonished to find that he uses large sheets of cardboard for some of his studies - which are great works of art as they are. I hope they last a long time.

Mary Paquet said...

A great question. I like that people want to own my art, and some people tell me where they've hung my art. I realize that I make art because I just plain like to make art. I'm making art and selling it because it pleases me. I don't really care if anyone remembers me or my art after I am gone. Though I will say I've been saddened by seeing someone's original painting at Goodwill, being bought for the frame. I will not part with original art I have purchased during my lifetime.

-Don said...

If and when I own a Katharine A. Cartwright original, I'll make sure it's hanging in my studio where I can be mesmerized and inspired by it daily... Just sayin'...

As for my work, I always find myself concerned with the archival nature of the media I use. Myrna has a great point about the cardboard used by artists of the past having lasted so far, but I fear it will become discolored (if it hasn't already) and begin to fall apart over time. This makes me think of da Vinci's "Last Supper" - I feel it will be a miracle if it's even viewable in the next couple of generations. It's already so damaged that it's hard for us to even see his original intent. I really desire to leave an art legacy, and I feel that it's up to me to use the best tools and media available to make sure they'll last as long as there could be an interest in them. Call me a control freak, but I'd like to know that my original intent was still intact after a few hundred years - with no fading, discoloring or falling apart having taken place... Now, if others have damaged it, that's beyond my control...


Stan Kurth said...

Interesting. Just recently I've been thinking about posting a comment on my Facebook wall asking anyone who owns one or more of my paintings to take and send a photograh of how they are displayed and if they are not displayed just send me a digital photo of the work. About a year or so ago a friend sent me three digital images of works I had done in the late 70's. I had totally forgotten what had happened to them.

Celeste Bergin said...

what a good question!

Since I became so enthralled with painting...I confess that I have more less allowed my house to fall into some I spend so much time painting or doing painting-related things I haven't cared too much about the things on the walls. You've got me thinking about something I bought from another artist and how it is NOT nicely displayed at all...(I bet she would be ticked if she saw that it is partially obscured by a paper calendar!)
Well...someday I might straighten things out. We DO have a plan to paint the front room this year and then I will have a clean slate for my treasures. One thing I own is a life/cast mask of a young woman..oh it is devine--I do have the capacity to revere certain things. I have some unframed things by some excellent artists on my bedroom dresser. I love how they greet me in the morning.

Kathy said...

Hi Mary - your comments reminds me of something I saw on "Antiques Roadshow" last night. A woman bought two original oil paintings at a thrift shop for a total of $13 and found out that they were painted by notable artists and worth $12,000. I'll bet that the person who left them at the thrift shop is kicking himself!

Hi Don - back at ya!! I agree with your choice to use archival materials of the highest quality. I do the same and feel it's my responsibility to do so. I still wonder how much of my work will end up in a landfill, however.

Hi Stan - interesting! When I sell a painting I get the buyer's contact information so I know who has what. It'll come in handy if I ever need to do a retrospective exhibition or book.

Hi Celeste - redecorating is a great way to display art in its best light. Like you, I have so little time to attend to this and little desire to redecorate at this point, but I do try to move things around now and then. I'm glad you spend so much time panting - great work!!

Mark Sheeky said...

I expect my pictures will hang in some great gallery after my death. Should I care about where now?

More importantly; what did happen to Venus' arms?! I wonder if one day someone will find them in a field somewhere and the Louvre will stick them back on. Perhaps, in ancient times, those were the best bits and so they were nicked and cemented to the wall, or suspended from the ceiling, of some elaborate surrealist palace!

Kathy said...

Hi Mark - I have no doubt that your paintings will hang in a prestigious museum in the future! As for Venus' arms, I like your imaginings :-)

r garriott said...

I love your bathroom example. Last year I talked my way 'out' of a commssion because the piece was to hang in the bathroom-- not that I have an objection in general to bathroom art-- I have a number of pieces in my own bathroom (mostly durable ceramic)-- but as I paint on stretched canvas, I feared the moisture in that room would soon
A)Warp the wooden stretcher bars and/or
B)Mildew the back of the canvas and eat forward to the front.

In either case I did not want to be be held responsible for the possible demise of the art. I suggested that they might prefer a pro quality singular reproduction of one of my paintings on vinyl. I sugested the same to someone who wanted a painting mounted on the outside of their sailboat.

Kathy said...

Hi "r" - a great suggestion! Thanks for adding this tip - it could be a good solution for a lot of artists who encounter this problem.