Let it Hang | The History and How to of the Salon Hang

We often hear collectors lament that they’ve run out of wall space. Well, no more! Rather than buying endless walls or stunting your collection, we propose you consider the Salon Hang. With roots in eighteenth century Paris, it’s chic, exuberant and strangely enough, practical. Such fans are we, that we’re diving into the history of the hang and arguing for its future - perhaps in your home?

Salon Hanging the 21st Century - a contemporary hang featuring works by Charles Blackman, Mark Schaller, Mitjili Napurrula, Lesbia Thorpe and more. 


The History of the Salon Hang

Believe it or not, but the Salon Hang was once the dominant way to exhibit art. Named after the annual exhibition held by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, it allowed the artists’ work to all be shown at once. Where you landed on the wall was an indication of your status, with those ‘lesser’ artists placed in hard to peek positions.


Examples of Salon Hangs in the 19th century. 


In their dismantling of the status quo, the Impressionists rejected the ‘Salon Hang’. In place of it, they hung their works at eye level around the room - allowing each piece to be appreciated in full. Doing this may seem inconsequential, but for some historians it signifies the inception of the modern art world. Rather than falling prey to the hegemonic class, the Impressionist artists pushed back with their hang. Soon, museums followed suit - shifting their art of eye level.


'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' - a film about cutting class and taking time to look around. Next time you're in a gallery follow suit and look round. Notice all the paintings are at eye-level? 


Salon Hangs Today

So, if Salon Hangs were rejected for being elitist, does having one now make you a snob? Absolutely not. Unencumbered from the nineteenth century French aristocracy, Salon Hangs have evolved into an exuberant, Parisian, joyous way to celebrate art.

Salon Hang at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York, 2015. 

Done thoughtfully and a Salon Hang can explore the connections between works, or tell a story through them. It places art in a context that is non-linear and complex, reflecting how artists actually exist. As one put it, stand back and you realise “the entire wall is a piece of art”! 


A welcoming alternative to the white cube - Lucio’s Restaurant in Paddington Sydney (left) features a Salon Hang of work John Olsen, Garry Shead, John Beard, John Coburn, Mark Schaller, Jason Benjamin and Luke Sciberras.


That being said, here are some tips to help you not get too hung up with your hang.

  1. After you’ve chosen a wall, layout the art you intend to hang on the floor, to get an idea of on how it will look.  
  2. Create a ‘Blueprint’ by tapping up bits of paper to nail that will indicate where you need to put a nail.
  3. If you’re running a Salon Hang up a set of stairs, ensure your focal works remain eye level as the viewer descends or ascends.
  4. If you need a practical pointer on how to hang a work, click here.