March 3, 2009


Not all artwork is created equal and it doesn't come with a maintenance manual. If you own art in any of its many forms you are the current care taker. So how do you care for it? This question has been a matter for debate since the beginning of time, famous cases: the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel, restoration vs. conservation of Mona Lisa or how Rembrant's Night Watch was changed when cleaned.

Art care is delicate and may be dependent upon different circumstances and conditions such as; How the artwork is created, where it has been previous care or treatment. The more you know about it, the better... Start with your decision to frame and display it.

When you decide to have framing done it is most often because you have something you wish to display. You may even have a idea of how you want it to look. Acid free materials, UV glazing and hinges on artwork are all important but not always necessary. Colors, size, and style of frame determines how it looks in its surroundings and how well it shows off the piece. Material selection and framing techniques affect lasting qualities and future condition.

When preservation is an important concerns , consider the selection of framing materials and the techniques/treatment used.

A knowledgeable framer will be able to explain the differences between materials, their compatibility with your art and conditions of its display. Materials may differ in composition, resistance to environmental conditions and pH levels, hence they should be individually suited for each piece.

Framing Options and Materials
The materials used to surround your art will also have a direct effect on it. Words like acidic condition, acid burn, acid-free are all used in connection with mat boards and backboards. The condition of acid in these materials is in the changing composition of the material itself and is excellerated by light. Most of these material have a buffering agent to reduce any acidic condition which may occur this makes the materials alkaline. Although, some organic materials may react to high alkaline conditions so the materials need to be of a more neutral pH level.

Mounting means adhering the paper to a ridged support most often cardboard. There are several methods and materials used for mounting but the greatest objection to fully mounting art is that it makes it harder to conserve at a later date and may introduce foreign materials onto the original paper that may not be removable. Paper is not a flat medium, it reacts to changes in temperature and humidity, swelling when the humidity is high and shrinking when its low creating waves. To eliminate these changes in paper and to keep it flat it is most often mounted.

The alternative to full mounting is hinging the artwork. This type of attachment only effects a small area of you art as light paper strips are attached to small area at the top of the art and the art is allowed to hang free. This also allows it to change with temperature and humidity.

Protecting the surface
Surface protection is important to all artwork, it keeps foreign substances off the surface providing a degree of protection. Surface protection include glaze, glass and acrylic for art on paper, as well as photos. Surface protection is important because air born dust can damage soft or porous surfaces. Glazing in both glass and acrylic will protect art from UV protection, glare, static electricity, weight and breakage. A special material just for the varnishing of pictures can also be used. In most cases it should be applied after the art has been cleaned so as not to trap dust or surface dirt. This is best left to a professional who is experienced with the cleaning and varnishing of art.

Display Conditions

How and where your art is displayed has a direct effect on preservation because environmental elements, light temperature, humidity and pollution all effect condition and longevity. Discuss where you intend to hang your art with your framer when you are designing how it will look and how it will be preserved. Display condition can greatly effect the way your artwork will look and last

Damaged Art
In the unfortunate event that your piece is say damaged in transit and the artist is alive, it's okay to request a touch up (within reason) unless it's water damage. Usually this can be at no cost or at a nominal fee.

Every Day Care & Maintenance
Art like everything else needs care and maintenance, occasional dusting is fine but more thorough cleaning may need to be performed by a trained specialist. If in doubt ask your framer, dealer or artist. Conservation today is directed toward producing favorable conditions for display to combat deterioration. Remember regardless of credentials no single source has all the answers or can perform all treatments. So please do some research.



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