why gallery walls MATTER in art

The framing of art, the environment & tone is crucial in artistic display.

By jasmine chan: arts Columnist

Galleries, and museums all have one thing in common. That they have walls that display artwork. It is the most crucial element to an exhibition that makers, and curators contemplate frequently. Yet, it is the most undervalued part of the exhibition to visitors. So why do the walls matter within an exhibition?

Gallery walls matter due to the way they can affect the viewing experience for an audience. The reason for this, is because the room dividers act like a background to a piece of art. In art, the main features that artists consider when producing work are colour, tone, composition, line, shape, form, and texture. These must be considered, otherwise the message along with the intention will be lost.

The environment can also affect how panels are constructed and painted. Think of The National Portrait Gallery, you would most likely never see neon coloured walls along with a flimsy material used. This is due to the building supposedly being built in a Renaissance Revival style, therefore not fitting the aesthetics and context. Consequently, affecting the type of art that will be shown.

All of these apply to when a curator is deciding where to place and display artwork.


However, walls are not important to the point that they encompass the whole exhibition experience. For some creatives, they would prefer the background of their art to be in a natural setting. This could be due to the craftsperson not wanting their work to be secluded in a clinical setting. By having creative work placed in a gallery, viewers create an automatic expectation of what they will experience. Therefore, hindering any opportunity for the art piece to be explored.

Another reason why art pieces aren’t always shown in galleries, is due to the nature of the work. An example is Henry Moore’s work. Moore’s work is mostly sculpture work that can endure the weather. Sculpture also has a history of being displayed in the outdoors. Therefore, making it a better fit for public art, as oppose to sequestering it in a space that can only be viewed by a few people at a time. Artwork like these, can also be sometimes harder to fit into a room due to its size.

To summarize, walls within galleries and museums matter. Due to the walls being the true background of artwork, they can affect the experience of the exhibition. This can be because of the elements of art. On the other hand, it can be pointless the consider walls. This is usually a deliberate choice made by the creator and curator. Either due to the type of craft, or because of contextual reasons. Regardless, it must always be considered for how the room dividers will present designs.