Setting Up a Home Gallery

Other essays in this series

1 - Introduction
Doing great work is important. Showing your work in a setting that does it justice is just as important. In other words, where you show your work is just as important as what work you show.

Unfortunately, we don't always have control over the setting in which we show our work. In fact, more often than not, we have to take what is being offered to us. However, there are instances where we have a certain amount of control over this setting. At a show for example. We may not control every aspect of a show, but we do control the look and setting of our booth. Or, at an exhibition for example. We may not control everything about the exhibition, but we do usually have control over the selection of prints and the placement of these prints on the walls.

One setting where we have far more, if not total control is at a gallery that is operated by us. This can be a shop, or, in the instance being discussed here, a home gallery.

In this instance I have control over the entire setting of the gallery. I did not have control over how it was built, but I did have control over whether or not I liked, and wanted to purchase, the house where the gallery is located.

2 - Lighting
One factor that played an important role in using this specific room for a gallery was the number of windows and the feeling of light that they bring. I think that a gallery should have excellent light because prints don't look very good in dim light. The windows were an important factor for daytime. There remained the issue of lighting at night. I considered several options, but none were satifying or practical for this space until I thought of using track lighting. We installed a track on the ceiling, to which we mounted a number of track lights. These can be tilted any which way until you have them pointed exactly where you want them. You can also add lights to the track as desired. Right now I have 12 lights on the track and this number may go up in the future.

Track Lighting

3 - Furniture
Another important aspect of a gallery is furniture. Having furniture that fits nicely with the artwork is important. The furniture shouldn't call attention to itself, because the most important thing here is the artwork. On the other hand it shouldn't be so bland that it looks cheap. In other words, it should be in good taste. Above all, it should be elegant.

Elegant furniture is hard to find. In fact, the two words are rarely used together. We chose Ethan Allen furniture for the gallery. My original idea was to have just a sitting bench in the gallery, where one could sit and admire the artwork. However, I soon realized that not all the artwork would fit on the walls. First, there wouldn't be enough wall space, and second, a lot of my work is not framed. It is matted and provided either as single prints or as portfolios.

Matted prints required tables to be displayed on. They also required a place to be stored in when not displayed. I also wanted to feature my books, DVDs, calendars, music CDs, and other products in the gallery, and all of these also required both storage and display space.

It soon became obvious that a table was necessary as well as a buffet, for lack of a better term. We found very nice versions of both at Ethan Allen. These are simple, purposeful and elegant pieces. The table is particularly interesting because it is a folding table with a triple top (three sections). You can open just the midle section, or two sections, or all three sections, making the table very versatile and able to accomodate prints of various sizes.

Buffet for storage and display. The prints are 20"x30" mat size

Table partially extended. All the prints are 20"x30" mat size.

Table fully extended.All the prints are 20"x30" mat size.

4 - Print Racks
Another important accessory are print racks. I have used print racks at shows for year, but so far I had only used metal print racks. These are made of aluminum with black cloth. At first I thought I would use these for the gallery. In fact, I actually tried them in the gallery. I soon realized that they did not fit in. Their look was too cold, and the metal did not go well at all with the feel that I was looking for. I had to use wooden racks. Wood fosters the feel I am looking for. Wooden racks also go well with the rest of the furniture.

I placed the racks in the two niches located to the right and left of the gallery entrance. Above them I hung framed vertical panoramas. The recesses are very convenient for displaying the artwork. They are found throughout the hose making it possible to display large pieces in places other than the gallery itself. These niches go up to 10 feet wide or tall, providing the opportunity to display very large pieces.

Wooden Print Rack 1

Wooden Print Rack 2

5 - Easels
The last element used to display artwork are easels. I am using 2 currently in the gallery. These are metal, however, they are made of forged steel, with decorative elements, which make them fit in nicely. They do not have the industrial or utilitarian feel of the aluminum print racks.

I use the easels to display framed or matted pieces that are not hung on the walls. In the future I will be getting a couple of wooden easels as well. I just need to order them.

Easel 1

Easel 2

6 - Conclusion
Setting up a home gallery is fun and rewarding. Certainly, the most important element to make this possible is having the available space to do so. For a long time I did not have this space. When I started selling my work, I lived in a 14 feet x 60 feet mobile home and just being able to do my work was a challenge. There was no room to set up a home gallery. However, I did have my work displayed on the walls, in part because I enjoy doing this and in part because this was an effective way to "store" large pieces since space was at a premium. Hanging them placed them out of harm's way until the next show.

Our Home Gallery at night

This was then and this is now. Things have changed drastically for us in 11 years. At the time we lived in Canyon de Chelly, we did not know that one day we would be in a position to have our own home gallery. You may be in a similar position, not knowing how you could do this. If so, just know that hard work, not giving up, having specific goals and being passionate about your work can "move mountains" as they say.

The purpose of this essay is not to describe how I got from the mobile home above to the home gallery below. The purpose of this essay is simply to explain how to set up a home gallery. However, if you are interested in the path that led me from one to the other, I narrate my experiences as an artist in business, from 1997 to 2008, in my book Mastering Landscape Photography. This book is available on this site at this link, as well as on and other bookstores.

Alain Briot
Vistancia, Arizona
September 2008

Our Home Gallery

Essay and photographs Copyright © Alain Briot 2008
All rights reserved worldwide