Who invented Salon-style hanging?
What is Salon-style hanging?
The term "Salon Hanging" or the german equivalent "Petersburger Hängung" describes a concept of hanging a group of artworks on a wall. The term dates to pre-revolutionary times, to "Salon de Paris", the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts that was initiated in 1667 by a man known as the Sun King, Louis XIV, to propagate the official art taste at the court. The name was derived from where the exhibition was held, the Salon Carré which belongs to the Palace of the Louvre. The Salon eventually became the greatest regular art show during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Exhibition at the Salon de Paris was essential for any artist to achieve success in France for at least the next 200 years. Exhibition in the Salon marked a sign of royal favor.
In a Salon hang, the artworks are hung close to each other and from floor to ceiling in multiple rows. A salon style exhibition is completely unlike modern exhibition display concepts, where the paintings are often hung up with a lot of space around each work to enhance the experience of the individual works. At the "Salon de Paris" up to 400 individual artworks, the majority being paintings where chosen by a jury to be shown. A so called "Tapissier", oftenly an artist himself, was in charge of the hanging and the setup of the show. Obviously, the reason for the jostling of paintings and frames wasn´t due to artistic considerations but simply to the limits of available wall space.
In the 19th century the State Hermitage, the museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia employed the Salon-style hanging method to present its collections to the public. The abundance of artworks, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprises nearly 3 million items including the largest collection of paintings in the world. But there, a change in intention can be observed. The Petersburg hanging aims to impress the viewer with the sheer volume of collected works of art. Object of admiration is ultimately not the individual artwork, but one who has the resources to put together such vast collections.
Salon-style hangings are a widely applied practice at contemporary and classic art shows today and thanks to popular interior design magazines ultimately found its way to our living room walls. The free arrangement of a group of artworks with a common theme such as colour, medium, artist or subject matter on a wall is perceived as an expression of diversity and vividness. Presenting images in an asymmetrical fashion provokes visually interesting similarities or contrasts of style, topics, size and frames. The viewer is automatically looking out for unifying narrative and enjoys putting pictures in relationship to each other.
Designers of magazines and art catalogues eventually adopted the concept for individual page layouts. With the rise of personal computers and DTP-Software becoming a commodity the act of freely arranging a set of images on a (virtual) wall is today a natural process for anyone who holds a mouse.
Thank you Louis XIV and thank you Dave for pushing the boundaries and liberating us from the preoppucation with grid-style displays of visual art!
Surprisingly, the equivalent german term "Peterburger Hängung" is way more familiar in the german art scene than any Salon-referring designations. There is not one page on german wikipedia that would mention "Salon Hängung" and accordingly the term "Petersburg Hanging" isn´t known to the english version of wikipedia.
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