Preserving your works of art
Most artworks are susceptible to deterioration from light, humidity, temperature, insects, dust, salt and vibration as well as the dents, knocks, chips and tears that come from contact with human beings.
Light: Stone and metal are unaffected by light, but dyes and paints fade in both sunlight and artificial light. Artworks made with watercolours and inks are especially vulnerable. Light damage is irreversible - which is why most galleries lower their lighting. Keep light-sensitive artworks out of sunlight and reduce artificial lights where possible.
Humidity: High humidity for long periods can damage all works of art by encouraging mould, insects and corrosion. Prolonged low humidity is a good environment for metals, and thus for some sculpture, because it hinders corrosion, but it can warp and split wood and lift paint from canvas. Keep artworks made of metal and stone in a relative humidity lower than 35% if possible, and artworks made of wood, canvas, paper and other organic materials in humidity between 40% and 60%. Try to avoid fluctuating changes in humidity and avoid hanging any artwork on outside walls. Watch for mould and insect damage.
Temperature: Indoors, heat generally lowers humidity while cold raises it. Hanging a painting or textile on a cold wall thus risks the problems that come with high humidity. Wax and acrylics have low melting points, and dust can adhere to acrylic paintings in hot weather. Avoid extremes of temperature and changes in temperature. Place corks behind the frame to provide an airflow.
Dust can encourage corrosion and adhere to acrylic paint in hot weather.Keep artworks free of dust - in the case of flat works, ideally by protective glass or acrylic. Take special care not to abrade the surface when dusting artworks.
Salt in the air - a problem for seaside homes, as salty air absorbs more moisture -can encourage corrosion. Only air conditioning can reduce this danger.
Vibration, usually when moving artworks by vehicle, can be damaging. Avoid transporting artworks without compensating for vibration by careful packing and support.
Contact with human beings, even the most well-intentioned ones, can cause immediate damage. Avoid placing artworks in thoroughfares and, when carrying an artwork, do so at all times as though you might drop it.
Bark paintings are subject to warping and flaking paint. Changes in humidity may encourage the bark to return to its natural shape, resulting in warping or splitting. Stabilising the bark and consolidating flaking paint requires the attention of a professional conservator.
Paintings, textiles and works on paper should be protected with glass or acrylic where required, kept out of direct sunlight and strong artificial light, and kept away from high humidity (for example bathrooms) and low humidity (around heaters). Hanging on inside walls rather than exterior walls reduces the effects of humidity and temperature changes. Storage should be secure, clean, dry and pest-free.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Recommendations for artwork conservation, as supplied online by the Art Gallery of NSW website: