Whether you choose to buy art as an investment or to satisfy your aesthetic quest, it's important to take special care in the conservation of your artworks to avoid damage due to time or irreversible mistakes. Today, we give you some essential tips to cherish your precious art collection.
Honoré Daumier, The Painting-Lovers, 1860-1865. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
1. For paintings, stretched canvas or equivalent
- Choosing the right hanging location
Your canvas's worst enemy is certainly the sun. To avoid unwanted cracking and discoloration, never (or only for short periods) expose your artwork to direct sunlight. The overall environment around your canvas should also be controlled: your paintings can quickly accumulate a thin layer of dust (we'll come back to this), and pollutants of all kinds: particles of cigarette smoke (yellowing), cooking oils, or even stains and insect droppings. It's obviously impossible to keep your collection away from all these potential degradations but arrange it in such a way that it's in contact with these generators of dirt as little as possible: we therefore avoid expensive artwork in the kitchen or nearby, and in the living room if you're a smoker.
It's also preferable to avoid atmospheres that are too rough for the preservation of your artwork. Indeed, humidity, heat or extreme cold can create unwanted cracks and creases on your favorite artwork. Forget about displaying in an attic without heating and/or air conditioning, in a cellar or in any other space where the seasons brutally alter the temperature. It's also recommended not to hang valuable paintings above a radiator.
- Maintenance and conservation
Dust is inevitable. To solve these inconveniences that discreetly but surely accumulate on the surface of your canvases, a delicate cleaning with a soft and clean cloth should be sufficient, if you don't notice any cracks on the canvas surface. We avoid at all costs using water and household products that could damage paint and varnish.
Do you want a frame to enhance your artwork? Professionals recommend avoiding frames under glass, which don't allow the canvas to breathe. By opting for a simple frame (without glass), or in a specific PVC frame (plexiglass), you will avoid problems of humidity and condensation, especially when your paintings will undergo slight atmospheric changes throughout the year.
- Storage tips
When storing your paintings, whether it's to renew their display or to prepare them for transport, make sure that no object is pressing against the surface of the canvas. Conventional canvases (cotton and linen) tend to stretch under weight. Even with lightweight and seemingly blunt objects, repeated contact with the canvas can have a profound effect on the rigidity of your artwork. Avoid stacking your artwork flat on top of each other when storing it. A few pieces of cardboard between each piece stored upright may be enough to ensure the ideal preservation of your artwork.
Since canvases are made of materials that breathe, you can avoid the use of plastic (crates, zip bags, etc.) for storage. To store your artwork or to cover it during a long period of absence, we recommend the use of cotton sheets, which, in addition to preventing the appearance of mold and mildew as with plastic crates, also help prevent the natural accumulation of dust.
2. For artwork on paper: prints, engravings, lithographs, and equivalents
For the sake of your lithographs and other artwork on paper, we also recommend that you keep them out of direct sunlight. We also avoid places that are too humid or too hot: the paper is fragile and can, in time, crumble when you decide to remove it from its frame.
For framing, we advise you to invest in anti-reflective glass, treated against UV rays. This will protect your artwork from the harmful effects of the sun's rays, and it will also allow a more pleasant contemplation of your artwork. The matting, the back of your frame and any potential finishing adhesives should also be acid-free to prevent moisture from reaching your print and damaging it.
3. For bronze, wooden and metal sculptures
The maintenance of a sculpture depends mainly on what it is made of. As you can imagine, a marble sculpture will naturally be easier to clean and preserve than a cardboard sculpture.
- For bronze sculptures
Bronze isn't a very fragile material, and it easily survives through the centuries. However, we advise you to avoid locations that are too hot, too cold, or too humid. This could alter the color of the patina (surface of the bronze), which is essential to preserve if you don't want to call in a professional restorer before a potential resale.
Bronze sculptures generally don't need to be cleaned, other than periodic dusting with a soft, clean cloth or vacuum cleaner. If you wish to remove a stain from your bronze, you can use a mild soap with a bit of water but avoid the use of household products whose obscure compositions may be incompatible with the patina of your sculpture.
- For wooden sculptures
Unlike bronze, wood is a much more fragile material and is subject to the alterations of its environment, especially when it isn't varnished. If you have just acquired a sublime wooden sculpture, don't neglect these different points:
- Avoid locations that are too wet or too dry, near radiators, air vents and air conditioners. Wood is a hygroscopic material: it absorbs the humidity naturally present in the air. If it's too humid, the wood swells, and if it's too dry, it shrinks.
- Avoid locations in direct sunlight: wood discolors easily, and sunlight prematurely ages the varnish. This isn't a good thing for the optimal conservation of your sculpture.
- Install your sculpture on a shelf or a pedestal. Insects are the worst enemy of a wooden sculpture. By breaking the connection between your sculpture and the ground, you prevent crawling insects, which often do the most damage. Regular inspection of your sculpture will also help prevent unwanted infestation and irreversible damage to your artwork.
Finally, concerning the regular maintenance of your sculpture, we advise you to dust it with a soft cloth if it's smooth and/or varnished. If it's not, we recommend using a soft brush to prevent the fabric fibers from clinging to the rough edges of your artwork. In any case, never use water and household products to clean your wooden sculpture, as this could cause irreversible damage.
- For metal sculptures
Maintaining a metal sculpture is child's play since this material is extremely resistant to the effects of time and clumsiness. However, if you notice any impurities on your sculpture (fingerprints, stains), we strongly advise you to always dust your artwork (with a soft, clean cloth) before cleaning it further. This will prevent abrasion and the appearance of scratches on the surface of your sculpture.
On a more general note, and although this may seem obvious to some of you, we recommend that you periodically check the condition of your artwork. It often happens that you install an artwork and after a while you forget about it. If the artwork is discolored or cracked, it's certainly not the right place. Acting quickly will minimize the damage before it becomes irreversible.
Finally, if you notice any damage to a valuable canvas (tears, relaxation, cracks...), it's often better to call a professional than to try to repair it yourself. A poorly done repair can significantly reduce the value of an artwork, and it would be a shame to waste time and money on an operation that could easily be done by a professional with the expertise and tools necessary to make a quality repair without altering the value of your artistic acquisition.