When you see a ‘call for entry’ from a gallery or art event, the listing will state that “all submissions must be ready to hang.” But what does that really mean? The assumption, even when the gallery or event is for emerging (new) artists, is that the artist already knows. Gallery owners and curators can all tell you a myriad of horror stories that prove that artists don’t know what it means. The problem is that they assume and that’s never a good thing. I’m writing this to end the confusion and, hopefully, end at least a few of the horror stories.
In short, ‘ready to hang’ means:
- Your work has proper, and professional, hanging hardware installed
- If you used paint, the paint is completely dry
- If you used adhesive, the adhesive is fully cured (dry)
- If you used something that stinks to high heaven (spray paint or certain adhesives, for example), the piece has had plenty of time to off-gas so it no longer smells.
The last three points should be self explanatory. The first one is the subject of the rest of this post. At the end I tell you where you can buy all the hanging types I talk about.
Just Say ‘NO’ to Sawtooth Hangers!
Professional artists (which is anyone who wants to sell their art or show it anywhere) should NEVER use a sawtooth hanger. Ever. These do not work with wire hanging systems. They also do not work if someone wants to hang your artwork from a screw rather than a nail (this depends on the type of screw of course). Now you have not one but two reasons for not using sawtooth hangers. Since they cost no less than any other hanging device, there are few reasons to ever use them.
Note: re-read that last sentence. There are times when you may not have a choice. I had the problem several years ago on metal piece I created. The only thing I could get to work was a sawtooth hanger (in hindsight, a d-ring would have been better). Before I entered that piece in shows, I always contacted the gallery owner to ensure that it would not be a problem.
If you’re like me, you use a lot of pre-made frames. Often those frames come with a sawtooth hanger attached, or at least included. I don’t use them. If they are preinstalled, I remove them. I have a a box of alternate hanging hardware that I use instead. Some frames are easier to do this than others. I have been known to sand the back of a frame a bit so I can glue a piece of wood to back (using wood glue) to add a bit of depth for proper hanging hardware. I’ve also been known to return a frame to the store if I realize too late that I can’t find a way to use other hanging hardware.
D-Rings Work For Nearly Every Type Of Art
D-Rings are your best option. You use one on either end of your art and use picture wire to connect them (pull the wire as taught as you can). When you purchase these, they come with screws. Make sure you get the ones with Phillip-head screws, not flathead screws. These are super easy to install with a small cordless drill. In the picture you see 3 different types of d-rings. The center one is for heavier pieces which is why it has two screws.
Some frames and/or other backing materials may not be thick enough for the screws that come with the d-rings. In those cases, you have two options. First, attach a small piece of wood on the back of your frame using wood glue. If this is not an option, then you’ll need to get small screws or use a washer with the screw. I save small screws whenever I can but when I don’t have any, I get them from computer hardware stores like Microcenter.
Screw Eyes / Eye Screws Are Great For Canvases
Whether you call them screw eyes or eye screws or screw loops (my personal favorite), these work very well for canvases. Using your fingers, you push and turn into the wood of the canvas. You screw them into the inner sides rather than sticking out the back. Then, like with the d-rings, you run picture wire through the two loops. These come in a variety of sizes, from tiny to industrial size.
I use canvases periodically for my work but I always use d-rings. Why? Because eye screws are a pain in the fingers! Even when I drill a small pilot hole to get the screw started, they still take forever to screw into place (especially compared to d-rings that is). This is a matter of personal preference of course.
Other Options (Usually Not Suitable For Galleries)
There are other options out there but when you deviate from a system that uses picture wire, you have to make sure that the gallery or other space can handle those types of hangers. A common example would be the French cleat. These are commonly used by mosaic artists because they distribute the weight of the piece evenly across the entire metal bar. You install this by connecting half to your art and the other half to the wall (with those giant screws). Not all galleries or other art venues (like restaurants, coffee shops, office buildings, etc) will be willing to install a French cleat to show your work. You need to make sure, before you submit your work, that this system is allowable. Don’t make the assumption that they will be merely because a venue has expressed interest in your work.
Keyhole hangers are another option, but not a ‘ready to hang’ option. There are many types of keyhole hangers. The one pictured is mean to be screwed on to the back of your work. They can be used individually or in pairs depending on the dimensions of your piece. A keyhole hanger is meant to be used with a nail or certain types of screws. Since this cannot be used with a wire hanging system, this would need to be cleared by the gallery before you submit your work.
Where To Buy
The good news is that it is super easy to buy all the hanging types pictured above. You can find them at craft stores, hardware stores, discount stores (Wal-Mart, Target) and even at drugstores like Walgreens. All of those places also sell the picture wire, usually located in the same section. Online retailers are also a great option. You can often purchase these things in larger quantities online, saving yourself some money in the process.