How to Care for Your Art
Educating yourself about how to protect your artwork is one of the wisest things you will ever do if you plan to continue collecting and investing in art.
- Keep your artworks out of direct sunlight. Your artwork might have a protective layer of varnish, but it is still possible for it to crack or fade if subjected to bright sunlight for long periods of time.
- Do not lean anything against the surface of a canvas. Objects near a painting may not seem sharp enough to pierce the canvas, but it is always surprising what will cause a scratch or a rip. Prevent accidents and store your artworks away from anything that might press against the surface. Try not to lean artworks on one another when storing them. Separate them with pieces of cardboard to avoid damage.
- Dust your artworks with a clean, soft rag occasionally to prevent dust buildup. Don't use cleaning products or water!
- Hang your artworks away from very busy and possibly messy areas. Over time, artworks can accumulate a thin layer of dust and pollutants, airborne grime from cooking oils, particles from smoking and insect specks. If there is a place to display your piece away from these things, or where it will be somewhat less exposed, try to position it there.
- Wrap your artwork well if you plan to transport it. Be sure to put a heavy piece of cardboard over the front and back to protect it. Then bubble wrap and place in a suitable heavy cardboard box. Rough handling can damage both the painting and the frame so pack it securely.
- Try to avoid subjecting your artworks to extreme changes in atmosphere. Avoid excessive dryness, humidity, heat or cold. All of these conditions can affect the state of your artwork in a negative way (canvas puckering, paint cracking, etc.).
- If your artwork does get damaged, don't fix it yourself. Take it to the place of purchase for a referral or look up a qualified conservator on your own. Amateur repairs can reduce the value of your artwork drastically.
- Do not frame artworks on canvas under glass, because canvas needs to breathe, if it is framed under glass you may trap moisture inside the frame. Canvases experience small, subtle shifts over time due to mild atmospheric changes, so it is best to leave them without glass to allow them to flow with these slight changes.
- Do not cover artworks with plastic for long periods of time. If there is humidity in the air, they may start to grow mold. Cotton sheets are best for keeping dust away.
- Check the condition of your artworks periodically. Many people put up a artwork and forget about it, until they notice that it has been damaged. If a artwork is fading or cracking, a brief peek at it can prompt you to move it to a better place and avoid damaging it further.
Artworks on Paper
When taking care of art created on paper there are a few points specifically for preserving your artwork on paper.
- Again, keep your artwork out of direct sunlight. If exposed to extreme heat or sunlight over long periods of time, paper can become brittle and reach a point where it simply crumbles to the touch.
- Frame under non-glare glass, treated with a coating to protect the work from UV sunlight if possible. This not only protects your artwork from sunlight, the non-glare glass makes it easier to see the artwork surface when it is displayed.
- The mat and backing of your frame should be made of acid free paper and finished with acid free tape. This is to avoid any moisture reaching your painting and damaging it.
Ceramics & Glass
- Try to avoid putting liquid in your glass pieces. Though people usually don't use art glass for this purpose, it can happen. If you do choose to put a liquid into your glass piece, do not leave it in for a long period of time. It may leave a stain or "etch" the surface of the glass. Be warned that putting an extremely hot or cold liquid into your glass may cause it to crack.
- Wash your glass carefully. Strong items can be washed gently (if absolutely necessary) in lukewarm water with a bit of gentle dish soap and a soft rag. Air dry. If you have any doubt about the structure of your glass object, do not immerse it in water. Just wipe gently with a damp cloth. Never put art glass in a dishwasher!
- Do not display ceramic plates on metal prongs. Many people make this mistake when displaying ceramics. Over time, this can damage the surface of your ceramic piece, even chipping or cracking it.
- Do not immerse porous ceramics (like earthenware) for long periods of time. They can be washed gently (see the glass washing method above), but not left to soak. They absorb water like sponges, and this can cause many different problems (cracking, water stains deep in the piece, etc.).
For Ceramics and Glass
- Store and display your ceramics and glass in a secure place. This may sound like common sense, but some people insist on displaying their best glass on the shelf under the stairs (or some other shaky place). Keep your pieces safe and secure from rattling and bumping.
- Keep out of sunlight. Most glass and ceramics will not fade without prolonged exposure, but don't take chances by leaving it in bright light for long periods of time.
- Try to grasp ceramics by the base. If you grab a small protruding detail on your vase, plate, or other ceramic or glass piece, it may break off. Grasp the whole piece firmly and carefully.
- If your glass or ceramic piece chips or breaks, take it to a professional for repair. Fixing a glass or ceramic piece on your own is not advisable if you wish to retain its value. Try to get all of the pieces together and avoid them scraping together if at all possible. A conservator will be able to tell you if your piece is salvageable, and will let you know what kind of repair costs and results you can expect.
- Keep bronze away from extreme heat, cold or humidity. A sudden change in atmosphere might change the color of the surface of the bronze (called the patina) and it is in your best interest to try and preserve the patina if possible. With extreme heat or cold, cracks in the bronze might even appear as the metal expands and contracts.
- Clean carefully. Bronzes do not usually need cleaning, apart from dusting with a soft cloth. You may vacuum your bronze, and if it is absolutely necessary, you can spot wash a dirty section with mild soap and distilled water.
- Avoid abrading the surface. Bronzes are strong enough to last through the centuries if you keep them out of harm's way, and the surface patina will age nicely if left alone, adding to the piece's value. Do not alter this surface by using any cleaners that remove the color or scrape into the patina.
- For any repairs, call a professional. Do not attempt to glue or solder a piece yourself, because a shoddy repair can decrease the value of your piece. Also, if you observe any serious changes in the patina, contact a professional for advice.