Looking After Artwork

Investing in a piece of artwork is something many of us do as we grow older and more financially stable. Indeed, the act of buying an original painting, sculpture or framed photograph is often seen as a sign of becoming an adult; a moment in your life when you ditch the Blu-Tacked film posters, in favour of some art that has real staying power.

The only problem is, owning an expensive artwork is not as simple as making your purchase and hanging it on the wall. To prevent damage (something especially important if you are intending to sell the art on in the future), a certain level of upkeep is required. Luckily, taking care of an artwork is not rocket science – it’s just a matter of following these simple tips.

Picture Framing Options

Paintings, drawings and photographs are often sold with a frame. However, if you’ve bought an artwork that has no frame, there are a few things to bear in mind.

First off, it’s important to buy a custom-made picture frame and picture mount. Not only will it look better with the artwork, but there’s less chance of damage to the piece – for instance, a frame that’s slightly too small can bend and crumple the edges of a photo or a drawing and you certainly do not want to trim or alter any original or limited piece of artwork. Secondly, you should opt for a good quality, sturdy, frame with a glazed front that won’t slip off the wall, break, or let in any moisture or dirt.

For ultimate convenience, take measurements of your artwork and head to EzeFrame’s picture frames and picture mounts page. Here, you can customise your frame down to the very last detail, choosing a frame that will complement and protect your artwork.

Handling your Artwork

How you handle your artwork depends largely upon the medium. Paintings – particularly unframed ones – must generally be treated with the most care, although sculptures can also be extremely fragile.

When moving fragile artworks into your home, make sure your hands are clean, and that you’ve taken off any watches or jewellery that might scratch the surface. Make sure large pieces are carried by more than one person, and when transporting a painting, hold it by its sides, avoiding putting your hands on the front surface. For maximum caution, wear clean cotton gloves – but be careful not to let any fibres snag on the artwork.

Framed prints, drawings or photographs are less delicate, but it’s still important to have clean hands or wear gloves whenever you’re handling them, as this will prevent smudges and grease spots on the frame.

Displaying your Artwork

Deciding where to place your artwork will determine how well-protected it is from damage and wear. The following points are the most important to consider:

  • Never place artwork in direct sunlight. This can cause irreversible colour changes, fading, and cracking in oil paintings, watercolours, prints and photographs.
  • Never place artwork over a heat source such as a vent, radiator or fireplace. Not only will the heat have a drying effect upon the materials used, it will also carry up dirt and grime which can become lodged in your painting or sculpture.
  • Never place artwork in a place where it may get wet. This may seem like an obvious point to make, but even if there is a slight risk of leaks or damp patches (e.g. if the room is below a bathroom, or next to an old window) it’s better to choose an alternative location.

It’s important to try and maintain a constant level of humidity in the room where your artwork is stored. This is because fluctuations in humidity can cause the materials used in paintings, sculptures or frames to warp and curve. It isn’t always easy to control the “climate” of a room, but investing in a humidifier/dehumidifier might be a good option.

It’s also worth noting that if you must put your artwork in direct sunlight, you can invest in a UV-protected glazing – although the more expensive option, UV filtering is high recommended for valuable or irreplaceable artwork.

Hanging Paintings or Framed Pictures

The important thing when hanging a picture or painting is to ensure that the artwork is properly supported, and will not buckle under its own weight or come out of the wall. Particularly heavy paintings may even require a bracket underneath to support the weight.

You should also be careful when using picture wire. Loop the wire through eye screws on either side of the frame so that it hangs from a double strand, and neatly secure any excess so that the wire does not poke into the back of the artwork.

Cleaning your Artwork

When cleaning a painting or sculpture, there is only so much that you can do without risking damage to the piece. Dusting can be done safely – and in fact should be done fairly regularly, to prevent a build-up of dirt. You can do this using a soft, natural-hair artist’s brush. Start by positioning the artwork in an upright stance at a slight angle, supporting it with a soft padded surface and ensuring that it won’t fall over. Brush the surface of the artwork, gently clearing away dust, and be careful not to let any fibres from the brush snag onto the artwork.

You should never attempt to wash a painting, or use moist cloths or hard, bristly brushes to dust or clean it. In the case of framed pictures with a glazed front, it’s safe to use a suitable spray – provided you do not apply it too liberally. Wipe the spray off using a microfibre polishing cloth that will get rid of any streaks.

Storing your Artwork

The final thing to bear in mind is that the best way to look after an artwork is to check on it regularly, to make sure it is still situated securely and isn’t starting to fade or change colour.

If you are going to store your artwork for any length of time, cover it in bubble wrap and brown paper, and place it somewhere secure and dry that is not too hot or cold.

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