PRIMER: HOW TO CARE FOR ART
All the tips and guidelines you need.
You've invested in art. And, like any investment, you want it to thrive for the long haul. But how do you do that and what does that even mean? The prospect can feel daunting, but spoiler alert: it's a lot less work than you might think. We spoke with experts at one of the world's top art galleries to compile their best recommendations to make sure your art lasts a lifetime.
What are some good guidelines to keep in mind to protect my artwork's longevity?
Start with quality framing. It's simple but important. Look for vendors who use archival materials (materials specifically designed to be resistant to light and other elements), including UV-filtering plexiglass to prevent any fading. For works that are especially light-sensitive, be sure to rotate the display so they have time to "rest" from all the exposure. In general, it's a good idea to be aware of conditions in the environment in addition to light, like the humidity and temperature. Also consider getting the work added to your home owner's insurance policy, including in-transit coverage.
Tell me more about issues with light, humidity and temperature.
It's best if artworks are never exposed to direct or particularly strong sunlight, so try to keep any adjacent windows covered. Even artificial lights, like quartz and fluorescent, should be filtered to remove the ultra-violet rays they can emit. If you want to get really technical: paintings should not be exposed to light in excess of 150 to 200 lux (15 to 20 footcandles); photographs, 50 to 80 lux (50 to 80 footcandles; and works on paper, 50 to 100 lux (5 to 10 footcandles). As far as temperature goes, avoid installing works in close proximity to any sources of heat or cold, ventilation outlets, windows or exterior doors. A 50 percent humidity level and 70 degree Fahrenheit temperature are ideal conditions in most cases.
Other than near sources of heat or cold and windows, are there any other places I shouldn't display art?
Try to avoid areas with heavy foot traffic, especially for works that aren't framed or don't have protective glazing. And related to those guidelines we mentioned earlier, keep artworks away from basements, bathrooms or other similar areas that experience large fluctuations in humidity and temperature. Ditto for placing works above fireplaces or near stoves where extreme heat can cause damage. If you happened to live in a flood zone, consider where your artwork would be located in the event of a storm. And because volatile organic compounds from paint and flooring materials can harm a work, make sure it's removed from the vicinity if you're doing any refurbishing in those categories.
Let's say I do have to temporarily put a work into storage at home because I'm remodeling. Should it be packed or prepared in any particular way?
Place archival bond paper in between unframed photographs as other kinds of paper – like kraft paper, cardboard or newsprint – can damage the works. For framed works with glazing, buffer them with a slipcase so the frame isn't accidentally burnished. Unglazed or unframed works can be placed into a shadow box to ensure nothing comes into contact with the artwork's face.
Is there anything I can do myself? Or should I leave everything to the pros?
It can be tempting, but, essentially, all maintenance should really be left to professionals. There are more than a few cases of people damaging works with Windex in an attempt to clean glazing or canned air to remove dist. At most, use a dry microfiber cloth to remove dust from the frame of a work with glazing.
If I'm looking to take an artwork to a professional for maintenance or cleaning, are there any credentials or affiliations I should keep an eye out for?
The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) has a list of affiliated professionals listed by zip code and specialty. It's also usually worthwhile to reach out to the gallery or dealer where you bought the work – they can advise you on who their preferred conservators are.