No More Wire Hangers!
If you are a Pop Culture guru, you will remember this reference to Mommie Dearest. In this 1981 classic, the infamous actress, Joan Crawford goes into a rage when she finds her clothes hanging on wire hangers. While I am not brought to ranting violence when I see artists and collectors using wire to hang their works on walls, I do have a visceral response. Like Crawford’s dresses – it’s not just a matter of aesthetics; it’s about the preservation and “shape” of your work.
Picture wire is definitely a convenient way to hang a work of art. Secured between two d-rings or strap hangers, wires make adjusting the placement of your painting on a wall easy. If you are a collector who does not enjoy making a series of precise measurements, this method of hanging is quick, easy and fairly secure. Just make sure you are using a quality picture wire that it is rated for the weight of your work.
HOWEVER… (enter Ms. Crawford)
NEVER use picture wire in high traffic areas. Paintings can shift out of alignment, or fall off of the wall if brushed with enough force. Cheap wire can fray and also cause the painting to fall.
When hanging large paintings (four feet or larger), picture wire can actually damage to the foundation of your frame and the work of art itself. Supporting a large work from a hook forces a single, central point to bear the full weight of the object. As a result, the wire pulls towards the piece inward. This pressure adds torque to the sides vertical supports, ultimately warping the stretcher/frame and pushing the work out of square. Over time, this stress can cause damage to your investment. Paintings that become warped require costly re-stretching of the canvas or re-securing of the actual stretcher bars. Stressed frames can cause damage to the paintings they are designed to protect.
A better alternative is to avoid using picture wire all together. Instead, use strap hangers to directly secure the work on your wall hooks. Distributing the weight straight down and equally between the two vertical supports will prevent warping while creating a secure foundation to your wall. I recommend using Floreat Hangers at the appropriate weight (they come at various weight ratings including 10, 20, 30, 50, and 75 lbs.) on your walls. I frequently use 50lb hangers; I tend to error on the side of caution with extra support. Strap hangers should be attached to the frame or painting stretcher 10 – 12 inches from the top of the work. If there are multiple cross bars, it’s best to place your hangers perpendicular to the top bar for maximum support. Z bars also are a great alternative for larger and heavier works. These metal cleats make leveling work easier, and can be locked together to provide an additional level of security.
When it comes to our collection, or the work produced in the studio, we have embraced our inner Crawford. The direct hanging method does require additional measurements to ensure proper hanging, we have found that it is worth the extra work. Buying or creating art is just the first stage of being an art lover. Protecting your investment or legacy is the next step.