You find a work of art that you love and make the purchase – an inspired investment. But then what? What does it take to keep your art in tip top shape? There are some basic tenets for keeping your art safe. Here are some tips for you:
First and foremost, do not hang your art in direct sunlight! This can fade your art. Fading cannot be fixed. Artist Marc Rothko made some great paintings that he called “color fields.” In addition to sunlight issues, Rothko used inferior paint. Then, a well-known Ivy League institution hung some Rothkos in one of their buildings. This building was a sunny, high traffic space where students congregated and food was present. Long story short, these paintings faded to the point that they no longer look like the originals. Additionally, damage to these particular pieces of art included graffiti.Your piece may not be an A List work of art, but it’s your collection. You needn’t fall prey to this problem! Find a nice location to feature your art that isn’t in direct sun.
Heat & Humidity
This is in reference to bath and shower spaces with lots of steam. Find something less valuable or more durable for that space. Other potentially hazardous (to your art) places are near fire places and furnace vents. If you couldn’t stand being in a particular spot 24/7, your art won’t stand it either. Avoid above stoves as well. Avoid all sources of steam, whether hot or cold.
Do Not Touch!!!
Only once in my experience did I attend an art exhibit that not only allowed touching, but encouraged it! The exhibit was interactive and building of temporary sculptural compositions was the goal. However, 99% of art is to look at. Damage will result from touching paintings because of the oils, salts and dirt that are found on hands. Touching art can soil it and worse, can break down the paint. Enjoy the beauty, skill or the intellectual challenge of the art but hands off!
You may have realized by now, that dramatic fluctuations in heat and humidity are red flags. You can add mold and silverfish to the threats if you store art in your cellar.
There is a renaissance happening in the art of encaustic wax painting. Encaustic painting is a very old tradition that can be found as far back as the 1st & 3rd Century A.D. In particular, funerary mummy portraits were done on wood or canvas. Many contemporary artists are working in encaustic these days. Deb Claffey shared some important information about encaustic care with me. In regard to heat, an encaustic painting will melt at 185. Specifically, a traditional encaustic work consists of wax, damar varnish and pigment. A beeswax piece will melt at 140. Also, freezing can seriously damage an encaustic work. If the painting freezes, edges of the art can easily chip off. The good news is that a properly created encaustic will hold up pretty well.
With all the great mixed media art being created these days, play it safe and don’t leave your art in the car! Think of the many mediums out there: clay, porcelain or glass etc. Theft, breakage or damage are all possibilities. There are many things you should not leave in your car for any serious time and art is one of them. Play it safe and make sure the art is delivered to a safe destination as soon as possible.
Prints & Photographs
These artworks should be matted and framed behind glass for their protection. Make sure your paper mats are acid free and archival quality. The acid in regular mats can eat away at your print. If you have ever seen an old print with brown spots on the image, you are seeing damage due to inferior framing materials. Also, your art should not sit against the glass because moisture can fuse the art to the glass. You can also select anti-glare glass if you like.
Ask the Artist
When you collect a work of art and considering its care, firsthand information from the artist is a great idea. After all, you and the artist both care that the work is always looked out for.
These basic tips will give you a good basis for taking care of your art. Enjoy your unique, one of a kind, art collection!
Image: WCA/NH member Lotus Lien, Bloom Series – Mudita (Sympathetic Joy), beeswax, damar resin, and pigment on cradled birch panel, 20 x 20 inches