Exhibition Color

February 2, 2012



“The advantage of white is that is saves the curator from having to choose” ~  Jonathan Jones


Takada Gallery


One of my favorite subjects– how is color best used to complement art?


Smithsonian American Art Museum


I live in a city brimming with art museums and galleries and have written about the brilliant use of color on the walls of The National Portrait Gallery and Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. The painting of gallery walls is most certainly an intellectual exercise and a subtle art. And the debate over whether or not the use of anything other than a neutral or white paint is simply a distraction… continues on.





MoMA, which set the standard for the display of contemporary art (in the 1930’s the walls were lined with a neutral beige monk’s cloth) recently initiated a repainting effort for a focused installation.  The color chosen was a greyish-beige– Benjamin Moore’s Big Bend Beige.

In an article about the history of MoMA‘s use of color,  Eleonore Hugendubel writes that its “adoption of the white-walled space set a pioneering, if not uncontested, international standard for exhibiting modern and contemporary art, one that to this day, by virtue of its chromatic simplicity, has remained somewhat of a norm. MoMA’s “white cube” galleries have been fertile ground for many critical debates and the subject of several not-so-neutral arguments.”




At the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, walls were recently “coloured” … the Museum noting that ,

“White kills all painting apart from 20th century and contemporary art. When you put an Academic or an Impressionist painting against a white background, the radiance of the white, its indeterminate aura around the work prevents the sometimes very subtle contrasts of values from being revealed.  In [our] view, white is the enemy of painting.”





The Guggenheim in NYC weighes in on the subject:

“Each time the Guggenheim mounts an exhibition it embarks on an elaborate design process to plan the gallery ambiance. Wall color is often used to convey a particular time, place, or culture, and must highlight the works of art without competing with them. The choice of wall color can influence how a museum visitor experiences the artworks, so this process is crucial to the presentation.”








The Guggenheim has recently collaborated with Fine Paints of Europe to offer a curated collection of  50 colors, culled from its exhibition design archives and intended to guide homeowners in the showcasing of art.



And  more examples of palettes chosen by museums abroad… these from Aalto Colour of New Zealand:









For over fifty years, white has been the choice and integral design element of the work of the modernist, Richard Meier (The Getty in LA). Speaking on the subject, he says,

“There is plenty of color, and…  white allows us to appreciate that color. It intensifies our perception of color, and the way that color changes throughout the day the way nature changes.”



The High Museum in Atlanta




My thoughts on the subject?   I simply appreciate that color has become an integral part of the exhibition design process.  That said….. white is a color.



Your thoughts?





Fine Paints of Europe + Bridget Beari Colors

January 17, 2012



Color,  fun,  and….  whimsy alert ! Fine Paints of Europe has collaborated with local Richmond, Virginia designer Susan Jamieson of Bridget Beari Designs to create an exciting new signature paint collection.


photo Bridget Beari


The collection, Bridget Beari Colors,  is a set of 76 custom wall colors formulated by the designer.  Susan says that the “motto” of the collection  is “inspired by the ones you love, created for the way you live” .


photo Bridget Beari (with Lulabelle)


And the way that Susan lives?  With dogs!  She walks the walk-–  each of her paint colors is named for a dog (or something else four-legged)– beloved pets of friends and clients. Is there anything more fun than that?


photo Bridget Beari


I recently had the opportunity to interview Susan about her  fabulous color collection:


J: As a designer with a certain aesthetic, do you find yourself actually using an edited collection of “tried and true” colors time and again?

S: Yes, I do use certain colors over again, especially a good white or a perfect tan.  All the colors in my Bridget Beari fan deck are colors that I  have used throughout my 20 years in interior design.

J: You state that “good design comes from the ability to visualize the potential in every space.”  Does the “potential” of a space have limitations in terms of color? Lighting comes to mind.

S: I believe that every room has potential.  It is a talent to be able to see what the positive characteristics are in a room and what design changes can really bring it to life.  I also believe that if something is lacking, then create.  If a room seems dark, then add light by physically adding a window, by lighting changes or by changing the tone with color.  The room will always tell me what it needs,  then I have to mix that with the client’s taste and my Bridget Beari touch.”



J: Your saturated “brights” really caught my eye. These are easy to get wrong.  Are your choices the result of trial and error or do you simply have that “eye” for what looks great up on a wall?

S: I think it is a little of both.  The strong colors need very specific settings.  This is a mistake most people make when choosing paint colors.  They think the stronger and brighter, the better.  They forget to take into account all the things that make up a room.  Having a design plan is so important when starting any project.  My clients like to call me the “Queen of Color” because I can pick colors quickly and with good results.  That said, sometimes the lighting in a room throws the color way off.  I always put up samples before a room is fully painted.



J:  I’m loving  the hot pink “Trixie”.  In what sort of space have you used this color successfully? And don’t tell me that “Trixie ” is a dog!

S:  Trixie is a horse from my childhood.  It is a great accent color.  I have painted chairs as well as the back of a bookcase.  I’m geting a lot of positive feedback on “Trixie” from other designers.



J. I’m also wild about your range of warm neutrals.  Do you have a favorite?

S: I am a neutral girl at heart.  I could do a whole chart on just neutrals, so I really have a hard time paring down to a favorite.  N.62 “Biscuit” is probably my favorite because it is the perfect base color for any room but it must be paired with a crisp white like “Snowball” for real impact.


Here at The Painted Room,  I’m a huge fan of “signature” paint collections.  The color choices of good designers are useful to me.  I  use them as a guide, but tweaking color to perfection depends on many variables in a space, most importantly…light.  Keep that in mind when sampling paint colors.

Where can you find Bridget Beari Colors?   Fine Paints of Europe retail locations and The Rue in Richmond, Virginia.

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My personal fav?