CARING FOR YOUR ART COLLECTION
HOW TO FRAME YOUR ARTWORK
Framing your new acquisition is usually the first step to take after picking it up. Frames and glazing are an investment, too, because you want to protect your art piece. Using appropriate materials and methods will ensure your collection stays in pristine condition.
In addition to choosing a frame that complements the overall style of the piece, you want to choose the right glass to protect it from the elements.
The most common options for protective glass are:
Non-Glare and Regular Glass: These materials are found primarily forframes at craft and hardware stores. These options provide half to zero protection against UV rays.
Plexiglass: A lighter weight acrylic glass, plexiglass protects against about60% of UV rays.
Museum Glass: This glass is the most effective glass option to protect your art because it allows less than 1% light reflection and blocks 99% of damaging UV rays.
“A frame is as important as the art itself,” Tanya Singh, ARTmine Collector’s corner.
An original piece, framed for the purpose of preservation, can have 10 or more components beneath the frame. These materials not only protect the piece, they can also enhance the viewing experience and value.
Properly framing a piece should undoubtedly protect a piece, as long as it can be reversed. If a piece of art is affixed to a framing component in a way that makes it difficult to remove without damaging it, you could face irreparable harm and lose value on the piece.
An expert framer will carefully select and assemble framing materials with your input. Together, you can determine glass reflectivity, mounting choices, and other stipulations unique to your needs.
A note of caution: Framing original works of art is not an ideal DIY project for an amateur. A professional framer will follow industry standards and best practices designed to protect your investment. Consulting with a frame store in your area is also a great way to support a local business who are often very knowledgeable about art.
HOW TO BEST HANG YOUR ARTWORK
Your work is not over if you purchased something already framed. You never know who decides to cut corners and use cheap materials or questionable methods; get the work inspected by a trusted professional.
You bought your new art piece with emotion and considered intention, but you get home and realize the piece is heavier or bigger than anticipated, or it’s especially delicate and you’re worried it might fall. The following recommendations are common best practices for installing artwork in your home.
Hire a Professional Installer
Professional art hangers work with a multitude of hardware and have a system based on weight and size to hang your pieces.
If you have any doubts about where to install your piece, find a knowledgeable professional who can help.
Hang Art Away from Doors and Ventilation
When planning your art display, assume it’s a beautiful day with your doors and windows open. If a breeze or sudden summer rain come in through a screened door and damage your piece, it’s a good idea to brainstorm alternate locations.
You also want to keep artwork out of direct draft from your ventilation system.
Place Art In Direct Sunlight
Light damage is irreversible to your artwork, but you shouldn’t have to keep your blinds closed.
You can still use natural lighting, but you will need to seek out translucent protective film for your windows and skylights. Companies like Vista Windowfilm specialize in clear window protections that block UV light and heat.
Additionally, remember to protect your art from sunlight with specialty glass in the frame.
Hang Valuable Art Over a Fireplace
Keeping your art directly above a fireplace or radiator invites smoke and heat damage.
Your objective is to place the center point of the art piece at between 56” to 62” (measuring from the floor to the midpoint of the image). In other words, at about eye level.
If the artwork will be viewed within 5’ to 15’, then 58″ to 60” center point should be just right. If the piece will be viewed from a further-away distance (more than 15’), center point should be slightly higher (60” to 62”). If the piece will be viewed close up (with-in 1’ to 3”), center point should be lower (56” to 58”). – Jimmy Calano, Collector.
MORE TIPS FOR HANGING ARTWORK & HOW TO CONSERVE YOUR WORK
Keep Your Home Around 70 Degrees
The ideal temperature to store artwork is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Be conscientious of this setting when you’re traveling and leaving your home vacant. If the temperature at home is expected to rise to 90 degrees while you’re away, consider leaving the air conditioning on during your trip.
Rotate Your Art Display
By moving your art display you are intrinsically more aware of the stateof your collection. You can make sure the frames and backings are in goodcondition and double check that the art is hanging securely with the bestsupport available. Rotating your display also keeps your senses fresh whenit comes to understanding and adding to your collection.
Preventative care for your collection is like flossing your teeth. You should do it.- Margaret Holben
Install & Maintain Smoke Detectors
Ideally, smoke detectors are installed 100 feet from all art in the home. Be cognizant of the difference between a heat detector or smoke detector. Heat detectors are commonly installed in homes because they protect from fire, but they do not protect from cooled smoke entering your home from a distant fire. Be sure that your home’s fire protection includes a smoke detector opposed to a heat detector.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND FOR ART PIECES IN STORAGE
Storing artwork at home can save monthly costs while ensuring your collection remains pristine. However, there are many potential downfalls that need to be avoided in order to keep your artwork in excellent condition.
Choose the Right Storage Room
Turning a closet or small office into an art storage room is an option, however, you need to know what the right room should include.
Your primary concerns are moisture and ventilation. Unfinished rooms provide no protection or control over these elements. Avoid attics or basements unless they are finished and have climate control.
Check where the air vents and windows are located. If a vent opens to your storage space, you can speak to a specialist about creating a deflective device so the air doesn’t blow directly on the artwork. Vents can spread dust, mold, and any musty smells indicate an even bigger problem.
Finally, avoid a room that has an exterior wall. Ideally, you want a room that is completely enclosed inside the house. Such location eliminates the risk of sunlight and weather, which can damage and fade artwork.
Ensure Correct Documentation When Storing Art
“You want a photo inventory and condition report for every single piece. For a museum condition report, typically the notebook travels with the exhibit, and the contents and condition are reported every time the crate is opened,” DEREK SMITH – Fine Art Installations
Managing your inventory includes documenting any changes in the art or its storage space over time.
At the very least, you need a “snapshot, description, and a notation of any existing damage,” Smith advises
A digital inventory tool, such as ArtExpress collector product, will help keep these documents organized. ArtExpress system makes keeping details about condition and location simple, and the powerful reporting feature gives a quick overview of all this activity.
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR ART FOR STORAGE
Clean Your Art Using the Right Materials
Microfiber cloths can remove any dust from hard surface, and wood or metal polish can prevent rust and help repair scuffing. Consult with a professional to choose the right polish for your piece so it can stop dust particles and rust damage. Art appraisers can also help find someone to professionally clean your piece for you.
Consult a Professional About Wrapping Your Work
Some collectors make an honest mistake and have their artwork wrapped in plastic before placing it in storage. However, even if it’s packed correctly with materials to separate the art from the plastic, humidity can still get trapped inside and cause mold or deterioration.
Use Crescent Board
Art storage experts use Crescent board, which is an acid-free, professional mounting board to separate pieces from touching when stacked or in transit. This keeps the piece protected, but it can still breathe.
Make Sure All Materials are Acid Free
Acid-free framing materials and acid-free storage materials are essential for long-term, archival storage.
Materials that are not acid free will age faster, and they could discolor the backing of the canvas or print, which negatively affects the value of the piece.
Maintain the Right Climate
The ideal humidity to store artwork is 40%–50% with a temperature between 70–75 degrees Fahrenheit (21– 24 degrees Celsius). When it comes to climate control the number one enemy is rapid changes in temperature or humidity. Severe climates can cause cracked paint, warping, yellowing of paper, and mold growth. A humidifier can help keep these levels stable.
Some antiques have been around since before air conditioning, so they can withstand a certain range of temperatures. However, modern art requires more attention. An encaustic painting, for example, which is made of a wax-based paint, melts very quickly.
The golden rule for humidity, despite your art’s age, is avoiding any change greater than 5% in 24 hours.
Keep Your Artwork Off the Ground
A well-known rule in the art world, art should never be stored on the ground. Simple shelving or a riser— anything to keep the art off the floor—will do. Finally, always store your art like books on a bookshelf, not piled, flat-side down.
Exercise Due Diligence When Storing Artwork
While you may feel the work is packaged and stored safely, a fierce attention to detail and regular check-ups on framing, storage structures, hanging support and environment will help you maintain excellent conditions for your art collection.
WORKING WITH A CONSERVATOR
“If you are going to invest a significant amount of money into a work of art, you are crazy not to have a conservator look at it” Margaret Holben
Conservators Fix Most Poor Framing
“The biggest amount of damage I work on is improper framing,” Goodman (A conservator) says. Improper tapes can cause tearing and other damage. Acidic board and framing materials yellow and darken colors with age.
Another mounting mishap—dry mounted prints. This practice is most common with photographs and is incredibly difficult to remove. The process flattens the artwork on a board using heat, is removed an eighth of an inch at a time.
They Aim to Stabilize the Damage
Conservators operate on the principle that their changes may need to be reversed in the future, in response to the constantly changing technology.
If a conservator ends up working on the piece later, they shouldn’t have to risk damaging it to reverse a repair. Conservators follow principles created by the American Institute of Conservation for Historic and Artistic Works.
Some Insurance Policies Will Cover a Conservator’s Cost
In the unlikely, yet unfortunate, scenario of flood, fire, or poor framing, your insurance company should also be involved. If your collection is well documented, complete with photographs, appraisals and provenance, your insurance policy may cover work performed by a qualified conservator.
Second, your conservator can provide a condition report recording the damage and the necessary repairs, along with an estimate. “Many times people don’t realize they can get their insurance companies to pay for damage,” Goodman (A conservator) notes. “I’m often hired to write condition reports along with an estimate that’s submitted to an insurance company.”
Conservators’ Estimates Are Based on Technique and Labor
A piece of art could be worth one dollar or a million dollars and yield the same estimate based on an equal amount of work. Goodman creates her estimates based on materials, labor, research, condition, size, and the work that needs to be done on that particular piece. “One thing I’d like art collectors to understand is that the price of the original artwork is not a factor in the estimate I give,” Goodman clarifies.
Conservators Make Both Invisible and Visible Repairs
Each repair is based on the piece and the situation.
At times, conservators might want to make the repairs obvious to highlight and preserve the original work. For example, a broken or incomplete piece of pottery could be comprised of both new and original pieces. Showing the cracks and new pieces keeps the piece authentic and the reconstruction transparent.
Goodman uses the example of Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste to repair tears in paper, an invisible repair that will hold over many years.
Visible or invisible, a repair might take place based on the condition of the piece, or on a client’s decision.
Conservators Cannot Affect the Signature of a Work
As an ethical standard, a conservator never touches the signature on any artwork. “Let’s say you have a print signed by Andy Warhol,” Goodman suggests. The piece could have been framed in a way that covered his signature, and now, you can barely see it. “Ethically, you’re never supposed to fill in or embellish a signature.”
Goodman has worked with documents signed by George Washington. In such cases, Goodman uses certain techniques to protect a signature, which is the only process a conservator can use. In any scenario, a conservator can never add to or embellish a signature.
Conservators Can Help With Fire and Water Damage
In some cases, a conservator is called for a home-visit after a fire or a flood. They will visit the site to assess the damage, make condition reports, and give estimates. Clients use these reports to file claims with insurance and update their collection management account.
“With any kind of smoke, fire, or water damage, the sooner it’s brought in the better chance there is to recover it,” Goodman stresses.
Water and fire can cause innumerable variations of damage. Water can cause mold to grow on artwork as well as causing artwork to stick to the glass inside a frame, though both can be fixed with the help of a conservator.
DO YOU NEED AN ART APPRAISER?
When art appraiser Charles Tovar bought a Joseph Claude Vernet painting at a Sotheby’s auction in 1970 he had no idea what it was worth, he simply bought it because he loved it. After a professional cleaning he found out it was worth 20 thousand dollars, more than ten times the purchase price.
That’s when Tovar became interested in appraising and authenticating artworks.
How to Find an Experienced Appraiser
An appraiser needs to be able to discern between dirty varnish and dull colors, authentic signatures, the age of the painting, and how old the paint is.
This work takes practice. Although a recent graduate in the fine arts may be familiar with a famous artist’s work, he’s not necessarily familiar with the fakes.
In an almost opposite experience to the Joseph Claude Vernet painting, Charles Tovar purchased a painting he estimated to be valued at $2.5 million at a Nicolas Poussin Expo. However, after sending the painting to the McCrone Institute in Chicago, leading experts in microscopy found titanium white paint on the canvas.
Titanium white paint wasn’t invented until after the artist’s death—which means the painting wasn’t real.
Your appraiser should be able to discern these details. “Break it up into categories,” Tovar encourages. Every appraiser tends to specialize in an area, whether it’s 20th century art, or particular old masters, or million-dollar appraisals. Bottom line: work with someone who is familiar with the type of opinion you need.
Appraisers Help You Define and Maintain Your Collection
Appraisers will consult with collectors looking for an assessment on a piece before they decide to buy. With their knowledge, they can help determine authenticity and the piece’s current condition. They can help discover potential repairs, and you can take their recommendations and estimates to the seller when negotiating terms. When an appraiser becomes familiar with your collection, they can also provide suggestions for new acquisitions and help guide the focus of your collection.
Have Regular Appraisals and Condition Reports of Your Collection
Tovar suggests having an updated valuation of your art collection every five years. You should also have a condition report every seven to ten years. A condition report is an update on your collection’s state of cleanliness.
Regular cleanings also open doors to new discoveries about the painting’s history and its creator. Take Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, for instance. Its controversial cleaning made historians concerned about the effect the cleaning would have on the paint colors. After the restoration was complete, the shadows were still very apparent, and the color palette used by the famed artist was, in fact, brighter than initially thought.
“The condition is going to affect the value tremendously,” Tovar explains. Tovar also suggests photos of your artwork, “Take these pictures and put them away in case of theft. A lot of art is stolen, and a lot of art can be recovered.”
What starts as internal instinct could turn into a goldmine—or it could be worth nothing. Working with the experts and becoming an expert yourself is your ticket to maintaining a strong, intelligent collection.
That Vernet painting? Twenty-five years later, the value has increased to more than $200,000.