Should you start with all the pieces in hand? Or should you just select one key piece and propagate your gallery from there? Do you start hanging your gallery in the middle of the wall, and work outwards? Or do you begin at one side of the space, and work your way along it? And then, should you match your art? Or clash it?
The answer, rather unhelpfully, is “all of the above” because anything goes with a gallery wall. Any. Thing. There is just one rigid and robust rule to abide by. Every painting in a successful gallery wall must be absolutely adored by its curators. Never be tempted to put a piece in your gallery that is ‘just about OK’ – a painting that you happen to have knocking around that might be the right size or have a nice frame around a questionable composition. If your gallery wall is really going to lift your spirits daily, then you must feel a connection with every item within it, otherwise - if a section or corner slightly disappoints - then the four pillars of the whole are disrupted and the whole bloody thing falls down.
At The Vintage Art Gallery we like to approach gallery wall curation like a table plan at a party. If you include the guest that bores with their chat about this week’s local byelections, that ruffles everyone’s feathers with unpleasant drunken hearsay, or that gets a bit handsy on the dance floor when the lights go down, then the party doesn't take off. But if the guests spark off each other, if they complement and contrast, and if they smile and shine, then you've got a pretty epic event on your hands.
A theme is always a good idea too. We have a seaside gallery wall in the master bedroom and a portrait gallery wall in the sitting room. They both have completely eclectic frames, mounts and mediums, so they aren’t even slightly matchy in their look. Instead they are carefully curated by subject. The sea gallery is special because we have been to every single one of the beaches or bays featured within it, so the wall provides a picture postcard connection to our family life that is heart-warming every day.
On the other hand, we don't personally know any of the people in our portrait gallery, but we nevertheless recognise the quirks of character in every personality - the enigmatic smile of a genteel and considered Victorian lady, or the mischievous swagger of a handsome pirate.
Our kitchen gallery isn’t linked by theme at all, but instead its’ common denominator is bright colour framed in white. There is a juxtaposition of old and new, print and painting, but the rainbow palette stretches right across the space, so everything pops together like a wall-sized fruit bowl of art and design.
On the stairs we go monochrome, with our Luke Martineau alphabet and our family photographs. There is absolutely no variety to the curation here at all – just regimented, plain and simple black rectangles – but the modern architectural look this provides is perfect in a neutral linking space like a hall or landing, and the bright stair runner in between anchors the monochrome squares in something deep and dramatic too.
If every gallery in our little house was a table at a wedding, then the plan pinned up on the easel at the entrance to the marquee would include The Sea, The People, The Colour and The Mono. Every table would be utterly different, but every guest would have the best time at the reception. From table to table the guests would be fun, bright, beautiful, naughty, interesting, nostalgic, wild and peacefully serene.
Of course, the dark and unsettling guests that we might choose to leave at the gallery door might be the perfect guests for someone else, so one should never throw a painting away. Focus on recycling and recirculating your unwanted art - gift to friends and family, send to car boot sales or donate to charity shops - because your bad guests might actually be someone else’s perfect partner. But always remember, with your own gallery wall, that you are the party planner, the guest of honour, and the bride & groom, so your only job is to make sure the gathering is a right bloody riot.