Five Tips for Preserving Your Fine Art Collection

Image Courtesy of Lowy.

Image Courtesy of Lowy.

If you are a new custodian of art, then you may be wondering how to keep it looking its best and ensure its longevity. Preserving a piece of art or restoring one that has been damaged requires skill and expertise, but the good news is that you can promote the well being of your art, preserve it for future generations, and protect the value of your investment by regularly monitoring the physical condition of your art and providing it with the right environment.

Artwork care varies greatly depending on the type of artwork, the medium used, and the environment in which it has been kept and in which it is displayed. The surface of most oil paintings has been varnished to protect against common environmental hazards, but a dull or yellowed appearance may be evidence of an older, discoloring varnish that should be replaced.

Cracking on the paint surface may indicate flaking, a condition that needs to be treated to avoid paint loss. Works on paper in your collection should be fitted with acid-free materials to prevent chemical damage to their supports. If you notice a discoloration on a work on paper just under the edge of the mat, then it may indicate an acidic mat that should be replaced.

Any works of art are fragile and will require conservation from time to time. Proper treatment to preserve artworks should be left to experts, but you can certainly help minimize conservation needs, keep the art you value in the best possible condition, and preventaccidents by following these five guideline

1. Provide a stable environment for your fine art collection

Promote the long-term health of your art by ensuring its environment is balanced, independently of seasonal temperatures, with as few fluctuations in relative humidity and temperature as possible. Extreme changes in a room’s humidity and temperature damage paintings, works on paper, and other decorative objects by encouraging paint to flake, crack, or grow mold.

2. Give it the right light

- Avoid hanging art in direct sunlight. Even if you have taken the precaution of covering windows with an ultraviolet filtering coating or with light-diffusing shades, direct exposure to sunlight is still harmful. Exposure to constant high levels of indoor lighting, too, can cause serious deterioration and should be avoided.
- Protect works on paper exposed to any light with an ultraviolet filtering glass or Plexiglas.
- Fitting works on paper with UV filtering glazing products can help protect them from harmful ultraviolet rays that cause fading and yellowing. Films can also be applied to windows for extra protection. Manufacturers recommend replacing these products every fifteen years.

3. Hang it correctly

- Have your pictures hung by a reputable picture hanger rather than tackle the job yourself.
- Always check the hanging wire on a newly purchased work of art. The piece may be fit with screw eyes that have loosened over time which could be an accident waiting to happen.
- Fit mirror hangers with new wire.
- Hang your art on interior walls, which are less susceptible to environmental changes than exterior walls.
- Do not hang works of art near an air conditioner vent, a humidifier, or a working fireplace.
- Open windows, bathroom humidity, and kitchen grease can all lead to condition problems.

4. Store it securely

- Do not store works of art in an attic or a basement, which may not be stable environments.
- Keep them away from external walls, avoid stacking them, and cover them with a breathable cloth.

5. Clean it properly

- Never use a moist cloth to clean a painting or a frame, particularly a gilded frame. A synthetic dry duster without quills is the desired tool.
- You should always have professional evaluate the condition of newly acquired art and monitor your collection periodically, however following the above guidelines and being vigilant will help you minimize deterioration and reduce the need for remedial treatments.

Many thanks to Lowy Frames and Fine Art Conservation for letting us post this helpful information!