University of Southern Indiana

Five Tips for Caring for Artwork in Your Home

Five Tips for Caring for Artwork in Your Home

3/20/2018 | University Communications
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These tips come from Susan Sauls, art collection registrar.

1. Environment

Make sure to keep art away from direct light, both natural light through windows and artificial light of lamps or overhead lights. Direct light can cause fading in paintings, photos, textiles and wood stain.

Be sure to monitor air quality. A steady temperature is best; not too humid or too dry. Humidity can add moisture to paper causing it to curl. It can also create an environment for mold in textiles. While humidity isn’t good, you also don’t want it to be so dry that it wicks any natural moisture out of paper and textiles causing them to become dry and brittle. Art should be kept in areas with good air circulation.

I compare artwork to skin. If your skin is scaly or dry, your artwork is probably dry too. If you feel clammy or sweaty, your artwork may be as well. Major temperature change, especially for acrylic paint, will cause it to expand and contract.

2. Cleaning

You never want to spray cleaner directly on your art. Spray cleaner onto a soft lint free cloth (old t-shirts work best.) I use hot water on a cloth and squeeze as much water out as I can so that it is just damp. That’s the best way to clean frames and artwork.

With using spray liquid on a frame, you run the risk of moisture getting between the glass and the frame. Also, using Windex on acrylic or Plexiglas can cause it to become cloudy impeding a clear view of the art. A damp cloth is best.

3. Archival Materials

If you’re using backing board in your frame, don’t use cardboard; use foam core. Materials should be acid free or archival quality, preferably archival. Beware of materials that come with a frame unless they are marked as archival or acid free. Other materials may contain acids that will erode art over time.

I’m also not a fan of colored mats, because you can’t be sure of what dye was used. If colored mats get wet, there is a possibility of it bleeding onto your artwork.

Exposed wood, like in the case of an open-back frame, should be sealed. Exposed wood may leach acid into art, mats or backing boards. If you buy a frame that is unsealed and want to seal it yourself, you can use polyurethane and let it dry completely or cure for a couple of days.

4. Insurance

Some homeowner’s insurance will cover artwork, so you want to be sure to keep an inventory. Include title, media, size, artist and value of both what you paid for the art piece and framing. Photograph artwork and keep and scan receipts, if possible, and maintain a digital file. If you don’t have a receipt, try to find a record of a similar item or work by the same artist.

5. Hanging Hardware

Use drywall or plaster anchors in the wall to support heavy objects. Use two hooks for stability. These are available at hardware and arts and craft stores. They are often sold as “hanging art kits.” If you are hanging a ceramic wall piece, you definitely want to go with a 50 pound hook and more than one anchor. Make sure with any artwork, you’re getting the right hardware for the weight. Never go past the maximum.

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Photo Credit: USI Photography and Multimedia

Susan Sauls

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