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Special Fall Home Design Issue | Display

Getting the hang of it

September 28, 2003

"Hanging and display are very important parts of having a collection because you want to do justice to the piece of art," says MOCA trustee Dallas Price-Van Breda. "How a piece is hung and how it's placed are critical." It's a lesson Price-Van Breda has learned at her Westside canyon property. There her two private home galleries see an ebb and flow as the art she purchases arrives and then occasionally departs when she is asked to loan pieces for various exhibitions.

Displaying art is not for the timid. When Price-Van Breda wanted to hang Malibu artist Russell Crotty's 45-inch-diameter sphere, she hired a crane to lift it into place. At least the three Cuban artists known as Los Carpinteros sent a template indicating how to mark the walls to hang the 36 tape measures that compose their piece, "Library Part 3." Artist Nancy Rubins' 3,000-pound metal sculpture, installed in the collector's avocado tree, was another challenge. Resembling an airplane crash, it required a special four-foot-deep concrete footing to anchor it in the ground. Price-Van Breda was leaving on a trip just as the artist drove past in a truck filled with parts. "She called out, 'Don't worry, Dallas, it will all be done when you get back.' " When she returned two weeks later, Rubins and her crew of three assistants were still working on the installation.

With pieces this large or irregularly shaped, it's not uncommon for artists to oversee the installation. For the setup of Jim Hodges' spider web-like sculpture of white brass chain and his 14-by-16-foot curtain of silk flowers, Price-Van Breda flew Hodges in from New Jersey. "Sometimes the artist's gallery sends staff out to hang, and there are firms around town specializing in art hanging and delivery as well," she says. "When it's a small piece, I get out my hammer and nail and go to it myself."

As for knowing what goes next to what, that's a subjective decision that major collectors make constantly. Price-Van Breda hung Crotty's giant sphere in front of a window to give the piece plenty of space. It also led her to move a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture to her desert home. "It became too crowded," she says.

For the lower level of Price's second gallery, artist Raymond Pettibon drew a commissioned work directly onto the 20-foot-long wall. "I wanted it to stand alone without anything in front of it so you could get back and observe it," Price-Van Breda says. To balance the primarily black-and-white artwork, she hung Pae White's "More Birds" silk screen in the corner, liking the way its colorful surface is reflected in an adjacent stainless steel cabinet. "A lot of hanging, and what goes next to what, is instinct," she says. "Too many pieces too close together get lost or overwhelm one another. There is no right or wrong way. I may hang a room and think everything looks great, and someone else may see it and wonder, 'What was she thinking?' "

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Resource Guide

MDA Johnson Favaro Architecture and Urban Design, (310) 559-5720, Culver City. Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, (323) 934-2250.

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