Hanging Naked Artwork

Artists are ingenious people! Trying all sorts of things to put up their art work without the use (and expense) of frames or glass. Though I wasn’t there, I can imagine the first caveman who put his obsession on something more portable than a cave wall, struggling with the question, “How do I hang my Naked Artwork?”

Since that time all sorts of items have been explored to display artwork, mostly things that poked through the art to kept it in place. There are obvious pitfalls to this method. Not only did they damage the artwork but often the hands of the artists. Who knows how many more Michelangelo’s or Leonardo da Vinci’s we would have had if a cut hand or smashed finger, in these times before antiseptics and antibiotics, was averted! The possibility boggles my simple mind!

The humanitarian creation of push-pins, thumb tacks, clips, clamps and finally adhesive tape drastically reduced these life threatening injuries but by then the Renaissance was over. C’est domage!

Though these inventions did help make hanging “Naked Artwork” less life threatening , damage to the artwork continued.

For generations we went forward in this manner until the metal ice box and then the refrigerator became household items. A little known fact, that has been whispered between art historians, is that the refrigerator was originally invented to save the lives of artists. Specifically, artists who used egg tempera and albumin for printing. These artists suffered terribly from repeated salmonella poisonings from the use of spoiled eggs. Because the effect of this poisoning is… okay, I’ll spare you the specifics to simply say that it causes food to not be properly absorbed, the physicians of that time coined the term “Starving Artists” to describe this devastating syndrome. But I’ve digressed…

What parent or child first mixed a refrigerator, school artwork, and a magnet from a child’s chemistry set, is now lost to historians but makes the viral nature this phenomenon has caught on, no less significant! So it’s no wonder how artists, who grew up praised for their artistic talents with this form of public display, have returned to using magnets to show their artwork!

So with this historic background in place, let’s talk about the modern day use of magnets to hang your “Naked Artwork”.

The basic three items you need are:

1. A magnet friendly surface – thumb tacks
2. Magnets (preferably 2 or more)
3. Your art work

The Magnet Friendly Surface

Though I’ve seen a refrigerator door hung on a wall being used as the magnetic surface, a piece if sheet metal would work. Though hanging it might be a bit of a challenge. But so was the refrigerator door! For something more manageable, you might consider a metal thumb tack or broad headed nail, like a roofing nail.

The Magnet

The magnets need to be powerful ones to hold the weight of your artwork without coming off every time someone walks by. Strong Earth Magnets made of Neodymium are the best. I’ve been told that they use these magnets to hold jewelry without needing to get pierced, so even if your artwork is as thick as an earlobe or a… I really don’t need to go there… these magnets will work!

You can find these magnets at hardware stores but the best source for the widest variety of sizes is the web. A couple of these web sources are www.magnets4less.com or www.kjmagnetics.com. You might be tempted to get some that are small and unobtrusive but get them large enough that they can hold the artwork in place as well as being able to find them if they are somehow pulled off!

Word of warning – in putting them in place, try not to drag them across the print, this will potentially scratch the artworks surface. If you get some that stand off so you firmly grab and pull them off, this would be best.

The Directions

For these directions let’s use a metal thumb tack.

Take your work of art and hand place it where you would like.

Pull back the top corners and either mark a spot or simply push the thumb tack into the wall. Making sure you place it far enough behind the artwork so it won’t be seen. With your artwork over the tacks, position the magnets on top of the artwork over the tacks.

Step back and admire your work!

If you would like to see a full gallery show presented in this manner please click my most recent show – Spent: What Remain? at the Adobe Art Gallery in Castro Valley, CA.


  1. I have a lot of book shelves, and am not in a position to drive tacks/nails into the shelves (or walls) without offending someone. Not only do the non-“super” magnets not work, but neither do the “magnetic strips” found with them – they don’t stick to the wood very well.

    I use galvanized roof edge flashing – 1 inch by 2 inch, which comes in 10 foot sections.
    The 2″ side goes under the books, the 1″ side hangs over the edge of the shelf for hanging the photos

    So far, nobody has been offended.

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