How to hang a giant unframed drawing
August 6, 2009 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Tell me and my friends how to hang two very large, priceless, unframed works on paper without damaging the paper at all.

The DIY gallery that I run with my friends has to hang two large drawings (they each measure approximately 5 feet by 8 feet). They are - trust me on this - priceless and all of the usual ways we would hang an unframed work on paper seem like they won't do. Clips might dent the paper, the paper might peel away from artist tape with map pins, and actually pinning the drawing is out of the question. We will not be able to buy magnets before the opening and mounting them is out of the question. Any suggestions?
posted by val5a to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Floor display? Lay it on the floor and line it with risers so people can see it properly from above.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:19 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can you use clips, but sandwich the part of the paper which might be dented between two small pieces of museum board? So you'd be creating a sort of buffer which spreads out the clip's compression so to avoid denting? That's the best I can come up with.
posted by fancyoats at 7:20 PM on August 6, 2009

3M poster strips.

posted by Jairus at 7:22 PM on August 6, 2009

A few ideas... Anyplace in your area sell acrylic sheets? Sandwich it between a pair. Fancyoats might be on to the right idea. Get 4 pieces of acrylic about 6 feet long and sandwich either end of the drawing between a pair. Drill through the excess on the edge, mount the top to the wall, let gravity pull taught, and mount the bottom.

The trick here is sandwiching between something smooth and flat so you can get the necessary compression without damaging the piece.
posted by bfranklin at 7:32 PM on August 6, 2009

oh, and if ultra paranoid, route the edges of the acrylic to a bull nose so no sharp corners can crease the paper.
posted by bfranklin at 7:34 PM on August 6, 2009

if it's "priceless", then surely it's worth more effort and protection than this? sticking it to the wall outside of adequate protection for a "priceless" piece seems exceedingly foolish. is it actually "priceless", or are you just looking to hang a piece of paper without damaging it? it seems like you'd get better answers if you were more forthcoming.
posted by radiosilents at 7:39 PM on August 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

radiosilents - why do you keep using quotes around "priceless"? OP says that these are drawings so the assumption is that they are originals, therefore, one-of-a-kinds, which effectively means "priceless" as no amount of money could replace it.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:47 PM on August 6, 2009

If they are priceless, you pay a good conservation framer who knows what they are doing to build frames for them.
posted by gyusan at 7:54 PM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Uh, you're limiting your amateur views on "pricelessness" to obvious physical damage, but paper in long-term visible storage is sensitive to UV radiation and moisture and whatever other decomposing factors are in the air.

If the art is reeeaaaaally priceless, you have to consider museum-quality conservation. Maybe consult with actual curators. It'll be expensive.
posted by Ky at 7:54 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

OP said We will not be able to buy magnets before the opening

If you don't have time to buy some magnets, then you probably don't have time for any of the more elaborate (but creative) recommendations involving acrylic and drilling and routers.

Sounds like Cat Pie Hurts has it. Floor display. (provided you already have risers, of course)
posted by philotes at 8:18 PM on August 6, 2009

Would there be dust issues with a horizontal display with no protection?
posted by smackfu at 8:23 PM on August 6, 2009

I don't know any of the technical stuff art hangers have to go through...but here's something I always thought:

Why can't you just take the art...and hang it in the same way people set photographs in a frame.

There's glass on the front, and something that holds the art via pressure on the back.

Could that work...if not, why not?
posted by hal_c_on at 8:40 PM on August 6, 2009

You want an 11th hour DIY display solution for giant, unwieldy, "priceless" artworks?

Maybe you need to slow down and re-think this. A future show perhaps. Don't rush forward and regret it later.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:47 PM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think there's two different definitions of "priceless" being used here:

1. Irreplaceable, so any damage at all is to be avoided, and no cost is too great to ensure that.

2. Any damage incurs liability far beyond the OP's ability to compensate the owner, so no damage is permissible, but neither is a "spare no expense" approach to hanging the item.

I suspect the OP means something like #2. Paying a conservation framer is likely far too expensive for a "DIY gallery". Even layers of acrylic that big are likely too expensive. I think fancycoats has it: Use clips to sandwich museum board to hang the work, so that the force of the clips is dispersed enough to not leave a mark.
posted by fatbird at 9:45 PM on August 6, 2009

Make a shallow box with the face sooth masonite, drill small holes in the masonite within the boundaries of your paper, pull a vaccum on the box and place your paper over the perforated section, a large HD aquarium pump is quiet and atmospheric pressure will hold the paper in place.
posted by hortense at 10:45 PM on August 6, 2009

For something that large, you'll have to mount it securely or you'll risk tearing the paper, which is worse than denting it. For truly priceless things that big, curators and gallery installers prepare elaborate and expensive shadowboxes, or mount the paper to something sturdier (like cloth). If it's heavy Rives-like paper, I'd second using clips with something softer and thicker to keep the clips from digging into the paper. You can also make a giant "clip" that spans the length of the top edge of the paper, by using two lengths of 1x3 wood clamped or screwed together. This will support the whole paper without "hot spots" that could tear it, and may be your best bet.

If the things were meant to be displayed -- especially in a DIY gallery like yours -- and are not currently framed, then the owner/artist surely expects some shop wear. It comes with the territory.
posted by turducken at 11:14 PM on August 6, 2009

Thanks all. I shouldn't have used the word "priceless" as they seemed to really throw some of you off. We're well aware of the issues pointed out by some responders. Oh, and both the artist and the gallery that represents them are aware of how limited our operation is and are okay with it. I was really just looking for left-field last minute suggestions that would prevent dents in the paper -- in time for the opening tomorrow (!). turducken and fatbird addressed this best.

If you're curious about how we resolved it: we went with clips with a buffer of cardboard. Upon closer examination of the drawings, we saw that there already were major dents and wear on the edges of the paper from a previous exhibition, so we calmed down a bit.
posted by val5a at 11:27 PM on August 6, 2009

You want a floating mount.
posted by fire&wings at 3:12 AM on August 7, 2009

I know you already have your solution, but here's some other thoughts. I also used to make enormous works on paper. You can actually use thumbtacks or artist pins, make sure they have very long pins. Put the pins in the wall, lower edge first and slip the paper between the pins and the wall. Use two-sided museum tape in the center of the piece, on the back, to keep it from bowing, then run a line of tacks across the top and sides as well. You'll need a LOT of tacks; it's not elegant, but this does work with quite large pieces (I've done this as large as 4'x6').

Second, can you afford a piece of plexiglass in that size? The way to hang unframed works without damaging them is to place them behind plexi (or glass if smaller-- yours are too large, the glass would weigh too much), with the plexi resting on L-shaped screws, and held in the top with the same screws, short stem down. If the works have anything sticking out, or if the plexi can't touch the surface, make the plexi slightly larger than the paper, and stick blocks of wood in the proper depth OUTSIDE the area of the picture so that the plexi rests against those. Use the thumbtack solution to actually hold the paper to the wall.

Your dilemma brings up an interesting issue with artists-- your muse requires 5x8 foot works on paper, but it's hideously impractical. For one thing, buyers are going to have the same problem and it is really really expensive to frame something that large, and once it's framed to move it if you need to, as well as heavy to hang. This is going to discourage people from buying your stuff. I always joke that no one ever taught me in art school not to make paintings bigger than would fit into my car unless I wanted to rent a truck every time I moved one.
posted by nax at 3:59 AM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

If the work is any version of priceless, make sure it's insured.
posted by theora55 at 9:32 AM on August 7, 2009

please do NOT use cardboard on works of art. it is chock full or acid and other damaging chemicals. you need something acid-free -- such as acid-free foam core or matboard.

also, if you ever want to put something of value between acrylic, you really need spacers, to keep the piece from sticking to the front piece of acrylic. (this also requires mounting the piece to the back piece of acrylic, however, which brings up another whole set of problems)
posted by unlucky.lisp at 10:35 AM on August 7, 2009

« Older Manipulate pdf file   |   On Tug-of-war Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.