The row of pictures on a white wall, carefully hung and evenly spaced like boxcars on a train, is a fairly recent gift to our interiors from the modern American art market. For two centuries or more, art was more often enjoyed salon-style, with big and small pieces mixed together and displayed from floor to ceiling. In European museums, art often is still shown this way.
The term “salon-style” derives from the famed Parisian art school École des Beaux-Arts, which, in the mid-17th century, began to exhibit the paintings of graduating students in huge public shows. Soon French royalty followed suit, offering public exhibits of its favored artists. Often infused with everything from controversy to kitsch, these royal salons were an early French version of American Idol; just substitute Edouard Manet’s Olympia for Fantasia Barrino’s cover of “Summertime.”
The era’s artistry, of course, is now mostly relegated to the Louvre, but the style of hanging pictures is again fashionable in galleries, museums, and especially homes. There are really no rules; all it takes is a good eye—or more to the point, confidence in your eye. So who better to look to for guidance than one of Portland’s most self-assured purveyors of style: Bruce Carey, the restaurateur behind 23Hoyt, Saucebox, Bluehour, and Clarklewis.
A longtime art enthusiast, Carey displays his collection—and those of his friends—on the walls of 23Hoyt, salon-style. “Part of our goal is to separate ourselves from the corporate monster and to infuse the space with personality, even if it’s quirky or odd,” Carey says. “Restaurants are about relationships. Most of the artists represented here are friends. The way we approach the menus is chef-driven and personality-driven. It makes sense to also have a personality-driven interior.” Carey’s eccentric galleries rotate about once a year to make room for new pieces and freshen the ambiance. Here’s a quick primer on how he creates his modern-day salon.