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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Art Of Exhibition

Putting your work on display, whether in a gallery, museum, local coffeehouse or your living room, is a rewarding opportunity to tell a visual story

Layer MasksThis Article Features Photo Zoom
Fredric Roberts
Framing Matting and framing can be the most expensive part of creating an exhibition. For images into which you’ve put this much effort, and for which you have a high regard, use archival materials. There’s basic terminology that you need to know if you’re cutting your own mats, buying them precut or taking the images to a professional framer.

Archival materials refer to any materials that won't chemically react with the artwork with which they come in contact. You want your images to last as long as possible, and archival materials for display and storage are the way to go.

An over mat serves multiple purposes—it keeps the image away from the glass or plexi, protects the image while it’s being handled and aesthetically frames the photograph. Select a white- or cream-colored mat board. Colored mat board can be distracting, and how many museum or gallery exhibitions have you seen that use colored mat board? Mat board comes in different thicknesses—the thinnest is 2-ply; 4-ply is most commonly used; and if you can afford it, use 8-ply, as it makes a deep, beveled edge when the window is cut and looks elegant. The back and the window side of the over mat should be held together with archival tape. There are several ways to attach the photograph to the mat. I prefer clear archival photo corners as opposed to a more permanent approach like cold or dry mounting.

Be generous with the size of the mat; there’s nothing worse than looking at a photograph that’s covered with an over mat that’s too small. It detracts from the image and the viewing experience. There are standard sizes that will help you to select the right mat. An 8x10 image can go in an 11x14-, or better yet, a 16x20-inch mat. For a 16x20-inch image, try a 20x24-inch mat; for an 18x24-inch image, go for 24x30 inches. When cutting the window in the mat, the sides will be the same width and the bottom should be about a half-inch wider than the top.

Fredric Roberts
The backing board should be archival as well, and there are a number of different products from which to choose. Backing board adds strength and protection for the matted work.

You want to protect the image, both front and back. Glass versus plexi is based on a number of factors, including mat size and cost. The larger your matted image, the heavier it will be with glass, and framing-quality glass can be expensive. Additionally, remember that glass and plexi require different cleaning solutions. Never use a glass cleaner on plexi! There are special cleaning products for polishing and reducing static on plexiglass. Anything used for cleaning glass will damage plexiglass.

The choice between a metal or wood frame is yours. Think about having your work matted and framed professionally.

Laying Out The Exhibition

The order and grouping of your work can influence how your audience engages with the exhibition. Laying out the work is like writing—the place and relationship of the images to one another are like structuring a sentence. The spaces between the individual photographs and the groupings reads like visual punctuation. With thematic presentations, try to group the related images together with even spacing between each frame. A good place to start is three to five inches separating each piece. When there’s a change in subject, a wider spacing helps prepare the viewer for the change. Think about the entire wall as you’re organizing the work. Keep the grouping tight, working toward the center of the room rather than trying to spread out. It’s not about covering as much wall space as you can; it’s about creating an exciting viewing experience.


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