Professional Art Display Requirements

Published: August 22, 2021        Updated: September 14, 2023
If you want to be a professional artist, nay, if you want to learn the professional way to be able to DISPLAY, WIRE, and get your artwork HUNG in art shows, art galleries etc, there are requirements to follow. It is imperative that the artist learn the best ways (and often the gallery's requirements) to properly finish your canvas, the tools to use to hang your canvas and how to wire your canvas (artwork) correctly.

Remember, improperly following the requirements could mean your piece is NOT hung. ADDITIONALLY - It is NOT the gallery's responsibility to provide NOR correct your wiring materials for you. 

Keys to Success:

  • All artwork should be presented in a simple, professional manner. 
  • Consider yourself a professional and treat your artwork with respect. 
  • Always use the best materials.
  • Before you go to a group art show, make sure you know what your artwork will be hanging from. PWAS uses gridwalls with picture hook hanging brackets.
Whenever possible use archival materials in making and presenting your artwork. Common materials such as paper, cardboard and tape contain acid that will cause gradual yellowing, fading and deterioration. By using neutral-PH materials, you can help preserve your art for future generations of art lovers to collect and enjoy.
Finished edges on a canvas. Painting credits: Donna Liguria, "Mountain Reflection"

Canvas edges should be finished. You can simply paint away the sides with a solid black edging (or another matching color) OR continue the painting around the sides as shown above. A painting that STOPS on the front of the canvas would need to be framed so that the sides are NOT seen at all. Be advised, many galleries require finished edges.
The finished presentation – front, back, top and bottom - is part of the whole work. It should appear to be new and well crafted, not battered and shop worn or flimsy or fragile.
"It should go without saying, but protect your frames from scuffs and scratches as well as the edges of your canvases."
Paintings should usually be finished with the appropriate varnish to help preserve and protect the finish.
Poor presentation can make great art look terrible. Good presentation can make terrible art look great.

Paintings, Photographs, Prints, Drawings, Other Similar Two-Dimensional Pieces:

  • All work must be presented ready-to-hang, with a wire (not string) attached to the frame between one-third and one-quarter of the way down the sides of the piece. Stainless steel braided picture wire works best for smooth hanging and deters rusting. NOTE: When wiring for hanging at some galleries, they may use a large S hook (or bracket) and the wire should not be so loose that the top of the hook shows at the top of the artwork/frame. Allow at least an inch and1/2 or preferably more of clearance.
  • Do not use saw-tooth hangers. They are not strong enough to support the weight of a frame safely.
  • Frame molding varies greatly in style and quality. Avoid over powering the art with brighter, bolder, or busier framing materials that distract from it visually and look amateurish, cheap, or out-of-place.
  • Some grand masterpieces are well suited to hand-carved gold frames; all other pieces look best in modest real wood or metal frame moldings with clean lines and black, neutral, or natural wood finishes.
  • Do not use "snap on" frames, corner-clips with glass or “easel” frames designed for tabletop use.
  • Photographs and all two-dimensional work on paper should be matted with neutral tones (white, gray or black only) and covered with clean, scratch-free glass or Plexiglas.
  • Matting serves to separate the art from the glazing, but it also isolates it for viewing. The artwork should stand alone without being enhanced or abated by the mat and frame.
  • Mat size should be appropriate to the piece. A wide mat is better; it expands the work and makes it appear larger. Narrow boarders visually reduce the artwork and look cheap. A three to four-inch mat with an extra half-inch on the bottom gives a nice visual feel to a finished piece. But, do not use extra wide mats just to make a piece fit in a standard size frame.
  • Float-mounting the artwork over the mat, so that the edges are seen, is an option when an artwork has a deckle edge or is constructed with handmade paper. A spacer within the frame should be used to keep the art from touching the glazing. A stretched canvas requires no glazing because the canvas needs to breathe. The frame may be backed with a dust cover and/or moisture barrier, but this must be perforated to allow air to circulate.
  • Large oils or acrylics on heavy-duty stretchers with a gallery wrap do not need to be framed. The canvas should be stapled on the back and the edge should be painted.
  • Side stapled canvases MUST be framed. 
Also of note:
Artists may want to look into the use of plexiglass when appropriate instead of glass when used for pieces that need that protection. The weight is far less.
Always put your contact info, business card, a business sticker - you need  identification on the back of your artwork! This is for several great reasons. If a gallery has a LOT of artwork while getting ready for a show, they will need to know which is which and obviously because once they hang the work, it is even harder to ID which is which. The gallery then needs to match their labels to your labels for the visitors to read.

When your artwork sells, the new owner will have your contact information.
The Prince William Art Society, requires:
Your Name
The Title of the Piece
The Medium
The Price
Sample by Mark Murphy on the back of an artwork
Sample of wire too high - this artwork will need to tighten up this wire so that the S-hook or bracket is below the top of the canvas

Sculpture, Pottery, Other Three-Dimensional Pieces:

You should provide a base or stand for large three-dimensional work. Instructions for special installations should be attached to the piece.
Quilts and other fabric wall hangings should have a sleeve or other place for curtain rods or similar hardware or otherwise be ready to hang.
Shrink-wrapped or plastic-wrapped pieces should be sealed and can be matted, but must have a sturdy backing presentation board.

Important Gallery, Art Show, Art Display Notes

  • It is not the gallery's responsibility to provide nor correct any artwork that is wired incorrectly or not at all.
  • Check the gallery, show, or art space that your art will be hanging; some use large S hooks as seen above or wall brackets. NEVER use sawtooth brackets on your canvases or framed works - the artwork cannot be hung.
  • If artwork that is poorly matted and framed begins to "fall apart" or droop, that artwork is removed from hanging in the gallery. 
  • All artwork should be signed on the back of the canvas to protect YOU the artist. While painting, turn the artwork around and PAINT your name on the back of the canvas. OR use a Sharpie to put your name on the work. Good options are to include the title, year, and medium.
  • To the best of your ability, be consistent in wiring your works so that they hang evenly (by height) - especially when you are showing a series of similar works. Use a ruler and consistent wiring techniques.
  • Ensure you use the proper wiring weight to your art piece. EX. If your artwork is really heavy, a lightweight inappropriate wire may break and your artwork could fall off the wall. The gallery is NOT responsible!
  • When artwork is delivered to the gallery for the show, please remove all packing materials and take them with you.

Author: Prince William Art Society and Donna Liguria

Author: Donna Liguria
An artist member of PWAS in Woodbridge, VA and Artistry Spin Blog Admin, specializing in acrylic painting. She paints landscapes, seascapes, animals and many subjects. Visit her Website at DonnaLiguriaArt.com, Donna's Etsy site and her Blog at Donna’s Cave Paintings.


  1. The information contained here is very helpful.
    Thank you.

    1. Good, I'm hoping everyone finds it useful - I certainly didn't know the "rules" when I started so sharing what is expected should help the newbies. May even help to keep a person's artwork from rejection if it doesn't follow the basics.

  2. Another framing tip is to ensure that the top of the wire (when pulled up) is no less than 1 inch in from the top of the frame. If it's close to the edge, the hanging hook may be visible.