Tips for Preserving Your Fine Art Collection
Buying your first piece of artwork, adding to, or even completing your collection is just the beginning of a long-term relationship. Like a marriage, you need to nurture your collection, preserving its condition and value. There are some simple (and more complicated) ways to maintain your pieces to ensure their long-term health. The key to preserving your fine art collection is maintenance, by understanding these conditions of ownership:
As a normal step in the buying process, having your new art appraised is a jumping board to obtaining additional services for your collection. This allows you to determine a variety of other concerns, like insurance, framing, and possibly any additional security needs.
When you bring your new artwork home (or to its final display location), get your piece insured immediately. It is the perfect time to review your existing policy to determine if you have enough coverage, or to shop for a policy specifically for collectibles. To obtain the appropriate coverage an appraisal is necessary. This investigation and subsequent insurance expenses may lead you to consider a home security system, or to look for safe storage options.
If you have purchased a piece of artwork which needs to be transported a long distance, or a piece which is large or fragile, getting that piece home may be a challenge. Your art advisor or gallery is likely to have a network of professionals who specialize in delivering fine art. Make sure your insurance policy covers accidents or damage incurred during transportation.
One tip in preserving your fine art collection is the protection gained from framing. Top-quality framing not only accentuates a beautiful piece of art, may increase its value, but also protects it from degradation, ensuring a longer period of enjoyment. A custom-made frame, built for the art it is intended to protect, preserves your art for years to come.
When you purchase a new piece of art (especially paintings), you want to preserve its condition by displaying it under ideal conditions. However, in the real world, it is nearly impossible to maintain “ideal” conditions while exhibiting your art in a location where it can be enjoyed regularly. Issues like humidity and lighting can wreak havoc on fine art, as sunlight and fluctuations in humidity are typical environmental issues which are accepted as a normal part of climate variations everywhere.
- Lighting: Natural light is damaging to many art mediums, generating heat and causing chemical reactions, especially in certain pigments. UV light is particularly harsh and should be avoided; this is why it is best to display art away from direct light and windows. One additional way to reduce UV damage is to switch to halogen bulbs, which emit less UV rays than incandescent or fluorescent lighting. Works on paper should be fitted with UV glazed glass, and windows can be treated with additional UV protection in rooms where direct light is of particular concern.
- Humidity: As we have stated before, the preferred climate contains humidity between 40% and 50%, and temperature between 68 degrees and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. However, fluctuations in humidity (and temperature, to some extremes) are perhaps the largest contributor to degradation in homes, as this can result in condensation building up, converting into water. Chemical reactions like hydrolysis, fatty acid exudation, and delamination can occur.
Everything you own becomes dirty; it’s a fact of life and a challenge in preserving your fine art collection. In most instances, dust is the primary culprit, which can easily be removed with a soft, dry cloth. Some mediums like acrylics and oil paints, along with most frames, can be wiped with a damp cloth, while statues in marble and bronze can be cleaned with mild dish soap and water. The key is to prevent dirt and grime from building on your pieces, rather than to remove it. Record any damage you find during the cleaning process, and if you notice anything significant, be sure to call a professional.
The time may come when you need to store your fine art, either temporarily while remodeling or moving, or for a long term when you may want to display other pieces, but want to keep the work in your collection. Before moving art to storage, whether in a climate controlled room in your home or to an art storage facility, prepare the art for the move. Avoid wrapping in plastic, as it can trap humidity (moisture!) against the pieces, and placing the pieces in material which prevent rubbing or bumping against hard objects or other works. If you decide to store your artwork in a facility rather than your home, be sure to check on it periodically to prevent conditions which can lead to long-term damage.
In light of recent weather extremes experienced in the southern U.S., it is important to note that having a plan in place for evacuation of your fine art is crucial to preserving your fine art collection. By having a written plan and, in the case of large collections or pieces spread out in multiple locations, a method or service which can help with moving collections to safety, one can avoid large losses due to natural disaster. Additionally, in case of a catastrophic event at a storage facility, a backup plan can mitigate loss when pieces are moved.
One of the most under-appreciated methods to preserving your fine art collection is recordkeeping. Maintaining sales contracts, records of authenticity, history of appraisals, insurance documents, maintenance and preservation records, and photographs, provide additional support for valuation. There are professional art documentation services and software to allow collectors to maintain concise, thorough electronic records of all works owned.
By keeping good records and even a list of these conditions, you can maintain the relationship with your art collection. Preserving your fine art collection is not difficult if you make it a regular part of your schedule, and regular inspections of your work can prevent issues from arising without your knowledge. Start your ownership experience well-prepared, with an appraisal and insurance, and provide your works with a suitable environment, protective framing and maintenance, and adequate storage (when necessary). Finally, thorough record keeping allows you to develop a history and timeline for your works to build value for the future. With a network of professionals to assist you through all stages of your fine art purchasing experience, let Sybaris Collection guide you, from choosing pieces to suit your taste and budget, to transporting, appraising, and displaying your beloved works. Our art advisory service offers personalized service for your entire journey.