The Little Gallery's relationship to the French Salon

  • 18 December 2016
  • Sarah Holden

At The Little Gallery, we are known for hanging 'salon style' - that is, filling our walls completely with works of art, rather than the sparse hang of a few works on each wall that is the convention of many modern galleries. 

The 'salon hang' has also become a favourite method for hanging photographs and works of art in contemporary homes, enabling many pieces, regardless of style or size, to coexist on a feature wall without clashing.

This style of installation has its roots in the original Salon gallery in Paris, France, formed in the late 17th Century. The Salon was initially developed as a place for graduates from the reputable school of fine art Ecole des Beaux-Arts to display their work. Later it became one of the most prestigious and influential public galleries in Europe. Paintings would fill the walls from top to bottom, and large sculptures filled the rest of the room. Academic jurors were employed to select the finest pieces of painting and sculpture to show in an annual or biennial exhibition, and critical writing about the Salon exhibitions in local publications gave rise to the occupation we now know today as the 'art critic.' 

Historically there have been many critiques of the Salon, especially by artists but also public figures. A separate 'Salon des Refuses' was created in 1863 by Napoleon the Third, to exhibit works that were rejected by the original Salon to prove the gallery's democratic nature. 

Many emerging and avant-garde artists such as Renoir and Rodin found the conservative and bureaucratic nature of the gallery to be too restricting on the production and displaying of artworks, and developed their own spaces for exhibition. 

When the painting movement Impressionism began to develop, these works were initially ill-received and refused by the Salon committee, deemed to be deviant from traditional styles of painting. This led the Impressionists to form their own exhibitions, and later they met unprecedented success, marking the beginning of the avant-garde and modern style of painting.

For our exhibitions at The Little Gallery we have no specific common style; our artists' practices range from hyper-realistic to very abstract, and a wide range of mediums are supported including painting, mixed media, sculpture, printmaking and jewellery. For us a salon-style installation means that we can display every unique work as having equal importance - no piece is privileged or appreciated over another. 

This diversity of work also means that we can encounter some challenges when trying to put them all together! We always aim to hang pieces strategically and to their best advantage, so that they complement each other and avoid clashing. On our walls you will see abstract pieces paired with landscapes, and a rainbow of colours and different sizes all together on each wall in harmony. 

For our gallery visitors this style of exhibition also means that because of the number and variety of works displayed in our space at any one time, you are sure to find at least one artwork to your taste! Our regular visitors will know that a visit to The Little Gallery means that you can end up spending a long time simply absorbing all of the different artworks. We also have new works coming in regularly and frequently change our exhibitions, meaning there is always something fresh to see. 

On your next visit to us, why not take a look at how we have put our artworks together? We would love your feedback. 

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