Building an art collection takes considerable time and investment, and while it is something to take immense pleasure in, it is also an asset. As with any valuable asset, works of art must be properly maintained to preserve their physical integrity.
Learning how to protect your artworks will not only ensure you can enjoy them well into the future but will also help you preserve the value of your pieces while avoiding hazards that may compromise their longevity and result in depreciated value.
If you plan to collect and invest in art, here are some key points to ensure you are keeping each work in the best possible condition and maximising any potential financial outcomes.
Location and environment
When it comes to preserving the integrity of the pieces within your collection, it is vital to store or display them in a suitable environment. The three major environmental factors that you will want to avoid are extreme or frequent changes in temperature, direct sunlight, and moisture, as each can result in fading or warping of the piece.
Works of art are vulnerable to these kinds of environmental factors due to the often-delicate nature of the pigments used. The harmful rays of the sun can easily cause them to fade and lose their hue, or even crack if subjected to strong sunlight for too long.
When choosing a location to display your works, it is advisable to take into consideration possible hazards from foot-traffic or other activities. For example, artworks can, over time, accumulate a layer of dirt and pollutants from airborne dust, smoke particles, or cooking oils, so it is wise to choose a place as far away from these things as possible.
Similarly, when storing a work, you should ensure it is safeguarded against potential hazards that could result in damage. Never lean anything against a canvas, and keep it away from objects that could pierce it and cause a scratch or a rip.
The importance of framing
While the artwork is of course the star of the show, choosing the right frame for each piece in your collection should be an absolute priority. The right frame will enhance and improve the overall appearance of the work and is integral to protecting it, and can even increase the value of the piece.
Failing to properly frame an artwork or choosing a frame which is unsuitable or made of poor quality materials can have serious consequences that can result in costly or even irreparable damage that will affect returns further down the line. Sub-standard frames can deteriorate over time, resulting in the canvas becoming loose and forming cracks in the paint, while a drawing on paper that is not adequately sealed could result in fading or tearing to the paper.
There are two key things to bear in mind when it comes to framing your artwork: the frame itself and the medium of the piece. Frames are available in a huge variety of styles, and while the specific kind you opt for will be an aesthetic preference, it is important to ensure it is of a high quality, with corners that are properly joined, and made of a material that will not cause damage to the work long-term.
Different kinds of art also have specific requirements from a frame. For example, photographs and artworks on paper will need to be framed using mount boards for extra stability, and need to be properly sealed, usually behind glass, while artworks on canvases will not need this. Finally, never, ever cut the artwork down to fit your frame!
Consider the medium
From paintings, to prints, to sculptures, an art collection can consist of a wide variety of different mediums and materials, and this should always be taken into consideration when it comes to maintaining them and keeping them in the best possible condition.
For paintings, some types are more low maintenance than others. For example, acrylics are less prone to dust due to their glossy nature and often only require wiping with a clean, dry cloth, whereas oil paintings are much more prone to accumulating dust and grime.
Sculptures in different materials also have varying levels of maintenance associated with them. While a wooden sculpture may need little more than a light dusting from time to time, a piece cast in metal may require polishing and additional maintenance to avoid rusting or changes in colour.
It is important to be aware of the specific upkeep needs of the different mediums in your collection, as this will not only keep them in good condition but will also prevent any potential damage as a result of improper care.
Caring for your art collection does not have to be a time-consuming or intimidating venture, but it is important to properly educate yourself on exactly what each of your artworks requires to preserve their integrity and longevity.
If you are ever in any doubt about how to care for a particular piece, it is always preferable to consult with a specialist who will be able to advise you, rather than risk any damage to your collection.
Steven Sulley is founder and art advisor of Soho-based art studio, Woodbury House
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