4 Mistakes That are Damaging Your Art (and What to Do About It)

Artwork Archive | January 25, 2017

Had your eye on a painting or other artwork for a long time and finally acquired it?

Before you get out the hammer and nails to hang it, make sure your new acquisition will last for the long haul. Improperly maintained art can compromise the longevity of a piece and lead to expensive restoration down the line.

Watch out for these common pitfalls and your collection will be appreciated for generations.

Hasty Framing

Tanya Singh of ARTmine Collector’s Corner affirms that “a frame is as important as the art itself.” 

There’s a lot more to framing art than initially meets the eye. 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.

Ask any fine art archivist and you will get plenty of cautionary tales of framing-gone-wrong, mangled paintings, and costly repairs. 

Proper framing thoroughly protects a piece and ensures that the framing is reversible. If a piece of art is affixed to a framing component in a way that makes it difficult to be removed without damaging it, you could face a big problem down the road.

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. 

Although it can be done, framing original works of art is not ideal for an amateur DIY project. 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. Plus, they’re often very knowledgeable about art!

You may think the work is over if you purchased something already framed, but it’s a good idea to get the work inspected by a trusted professional. You never know if corners may have been cut before the piece reached your collection.

Environmental Hazards

Even robust frames cannot protect art from certain environmental risks. The fibers and pigments that make up a piece of art are vulnerable to small changes in the environment, particularly over time. 

Watch out for direct sunlight and frequent changes in temperature and humidity. Try to avoid placing work near exterior doors or drafty windows. Also, keep an eye out for HVAC vents that might blow directly onto a piece.

Hanging your best art in your bathroom is also not a good move. If there’s a shower in the bathroom, the frequent condensation and steam can damage the work. In addition, bathrooms are likely to see some of the harshest cleaning solutions used, which increases the risk of contact.

Always use two nails when hanging a piece, and if it's fairly heavy, be sure that the wall you’re hanging it on can support the weight.

Disorganized Documentation

Fine art should come with supporting documents about the provenance and authenticity of a piece. Know what to look for in these documents, and have a system in place to organize and protect them. Make sure these documents are backed up for insurance purposes, estate planning, and future sales.

To keep everything in one place and accessible anywhere, Artwork Archive offers tools for collectors to safeguard these documents. 

When you first buy a piece, write down pertinent information about the purchase, including what drew you to it and how it fits in your collection. Artwork Archive’s inventory system uses fields and prompts to input essential information about a piece, as well as a section for private notes about the work. All of this supporting information is displayed directly alongside a given piece in your inventory.

Whatever filing system you use, it's important to be thorough when it comes to this paperwork. Unexplained gaps might diminish the value of your piece and call into question its authenticity. Re-establishing provenance can be tedious, expensive, and sometimes impossible.

Improper Cleaning

If you’ve been admiring your latest acquisition a little too closely and need to wipe away some nose prints, don’t reach for glass cleaner. This can seep into the edges of the frame and may expose the work to ammonia or other solvents. Instead, use a dry cloth. If necessary, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol directly to the cloth and use this on the glass.

Avoid using wood polish and furniture cleaner on the frame itself. The patina of the frame could be part of the pieces antique value and can be damaged by these well-intentioned cleaning efforts. Unless a frame is seriously stained and dirty (which should raise other questions), use a rag or duster for cleaning purposes.

Protect the Future of Your Collection

Remember the painting that opened your eyes to the art world? Imagine if it had been neglected and damaged beyond repair. Be proud of the fact that you’re helping preserve the legacy of your collection, not only for yourself, but also for future generations of art enthusiasts.

For more tips on collecting art and protecting it, download our Essential Guide to Collecting Art.

Secure, streamlined, and accessible anywhere. Artwork Archive is essential for collectors dedicated to protecting the future of their art collection.

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