How to Upgrade Your Gallery Wall

Words by Jody Hume | 11.1.19
The gallery wall has always been a classic way to curate your home like a personal museum. It seems to fall in and out of fashion now and then, but peruse photographs of the world’s most elevated homes and chances are you’ll spot a salon-style arrangement of art gracing the walls. Aside from the fact that they showcase a multitude of works at once, gallery wall compositions also allow for a special marriage of messages, symbols and stories to emerge. What unique narrative can you weave by placing a figurative portrait next to an abstract form, or by coupling a desert landscape photograph with a minimalist print? And how do you know where to start? Read on as two of our art and home experts share their tips for making a gallery wall feel fresh with the rare, coveted art they’re loving now.
Find A Bold New Balance

Clockwise from upper left: Untitled (Cabeza) by Jean-Michel Basquiat; Composition by Shu Takahashi; Tennis by John Vassos.

When it comes to gallery walls, Home & Art Specialist Alexandra Picerne loves a bold statement. “Choose one work to be your focal point, and this will help you build the rest of your gallery wall,” explains Picerne. Untitled (Cabeza) by Jean-Michel Basquiat is undeniably an eye-catching foundational piece. “Basquiat was one of the most prolific and iconic artists of the 20th century, and is highly sought-after by both new and seasoned collectors,” says Picerne. “This piece is a perfect example of his signature style and his fascination with anatomy. Many of Basquiat’s compositions focus on expressing a figure with an emphasis on the skull.”
Untitled (Cabeza) is not entirely centered here, yet still commands the eye upwards. Picerne encourages collectors to experiment with not only a focal piece, but with different types of art as well. “Don’t be afraid to incorporate different mediums and colors,” she advises. “Use your intuition and choose art that really speaks to you. That common thread will inherently tie the pieces together. And it’s always fun to combine two art pieces you wouldn’t necessarily find side by side.” 
Cue Shu Takahashi’s Composition, Picerne’s second pick for a bold gallery wall. “Japanese artist Shu Takahashi is the co-founder of Japan’s ‘Nouveau Art Group,’” says Picerne. “His minimalist works have been celebrated globally in a number of solo and group exhibitions. The vibrancy of the orange and pink stripes juxtaposes the stark black of the colliding shape. There’s an interesting tension there.”
Tennis by John Vassos is the finishing touch to Picerne’s trifecta. “John Vassos’ industrial designs left an indelible mark on the world of broadcasting, specifically radio and television, but he was also known for his illustrations,” notes Picerne. “The influence of the Art Deco movement is apparent in Tennis, which features abstract figures playing the sport. The shapes and colors also help to convey the depth of field, an impressive feat in a work using a limited color palette and linear perspective.”
Worried about finding the perfect balance for equally bold works? Fear not. “Map out the layout on the floor first before hanging,” advises Picerne. “Having a concrete plan will make it easier to hang your works where you want them. You’ll also be able to know how much space you’d like to keep between each frame. Though horizontal layouts are usually the norm for gallery walls, there’s something exciting about playing with height and taking an unconventional approach to your arrangement.”
Go For An Ethereal Upgrade

Clockwise from upper left: Untitled by Hannah Polskin; Ikebana 3 by Alyson Fox; How Did We Ever Live Without It? by Dustin YellinMonument Valley by Marcus DoyleWhite Tear by Shu Takahashi

Home & Art Valuation Manager Clementine Bernard’s take on the gallery wall aims to put you at ease. “One way to style a gallery wall is to choose a unifying theme or aesthetic and use that as a starting point,” says Bernard. “Hannah Polskin’s Untitled is a peaceful acrylic painting, inspiring serenity and calm. I love the idea of having a statement piece in a living room, but I also enjoy more understated pieces. Polskin exclusively uses geometric motifs and monochromatic palettes. There’s a clarity and honesty to this painting. If placed as a central composition in a room, make sure no other work overpowers it.”
A print by the aforementioned Shu Takahashi underscores tranquility. “Takahashi’s oeuvre evokes a deep observation and perfection of harmony,” says Bernard. “Form is an important part of Takahashi’s White Tear, and this piece has a surprisingly strong presence through its subtle shape. It’s easy to assemble with bolder sizes and graphic compositions, such as Polskin’s Untitled.” 
Add another level of complexity and depth to your gallery wall with a photograph in similar hues. “California-based photographer Marcus Doyle captures environmentally challenged areas and focuses on their alienation and isolation,” notes Bernard. “In Monument Valley, Doyle juxtaposes a delicate palette with a series of vertical and horizontal lines, picnic tables and sandstone buttes bathed in shadow. Together with Polskin and Takahashi’s pieces, they all seem to speak to the relationship between solitude, nature and finding oneself.”
Alyson Fox’s Ikebana 3 adds another graphic component while keeping the vibe minimal and relaxed. “As our gallery wall is not quite complete, I would suggest bringing a contrast with an abstract composition by Texas-based designer Alyson Fox,” says Bernard. “Fox has worked in numerous fields such as illustration, jewelry and dinnerware design. In her series ‘Ikebana,’ Fox offers a playful contrast between the soft and yet significant black stroke, and the delicate and airy geometric patterns. Smaller compositions have been incredibly in demand lately on The RealReal, and the piece’s asymmetrical placement here helps to keep the eye moving between each work.”
The final component of Bernard’s gallery wall is a true trophy piece—Dustin Yellin’s How Did We Ever Live Without It?. “Dustin Yellin is well-known for his massive resin sculptures, which at one point almost killed him due to the toxicity of the materials,” says Bernard. “This work is a great early acquisition in one’s collection. This small, clean and defined work of newspaper cutouts is so different than any of his previous creations. By affixing the words ‘How Did We Ever Live Without It?’ below the window, Yellin invites the viewer to see what is not visible to the eye, and encourages self-reflection.”
At the end of the day, creating a gallery wall should be about curating a selection of pieces that truly make home feel like home. Whether you go for a striking collage of conversation starters à la Picerne’s picks or want to bring calm and composure to your space with Bernard’s selections, you’re sure to land on a wall that represents you.
Get started on your gallery wall with our editors’ top art picks.

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