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Conservation and Preservation for the Artist or the Alchemist
For today's artist, conservation plays a minor or major role in
your work, whether it's creating a hallway galleria of family photographs
or preparing prints and paintings for a major art show. Conservation
is just as important for your cherished child's artwork as it is
in preparing a sale for your favorite client's fine art collection.
And while artistry and presentation are the defining factors that
might sell your artwork, every customer wants to know that their
investment can be treasured year after year.
Dirt is a potent source of damage and deterioration. Define dirt as any foreign matter that you didn’t intend as part of the artistic arrangement. Dirt might be fine dust, molds, soot or airborne particles such as grease, pollen and pollutants. So it’s essential to evaluate the “dirty quotient” during art display preparation. If your clientele gets a smog alert on a regular basis, or if your work is a commission for the fireplace mantle or kitchen pantry, then it’s vulnerable to dirt and desires protection.
Extreme Climates and Climatic Conditions: Art isn’t resistant to excessive temperature whether its bitter cold, brutal heat, bone-dry days in the desert or the coastline’s sticky humidity. Even modern works suffer temperature fluctuations and moisture malaise quickly, which leads to corrosion, rapid deterioration and give the appearance of artificially aging.
Temptation and Disasters: You’ll also want to evaluate risks associated with curious hands and quick feet – those unpredictable, regrettable acts resulting from fingertip smudges, soft drink explosions or the soccer ball – the one no one claims was cascading about on the indoor playing field. While it’s difficult to predict these disasters, it’s a risk to consider, especially if you or your new client has eight kids or 18 rowdy friends. In these situations, choose frames and glazing surfaces wisely.
Now that you know the risks, assess potential solutions. The solution you choose has value that extends itself from the work to your brand as an artist or photographer. You’re aware of conservation practices and willing to make the stability requirements for the sake of the artwork and your client’s needs.
As a knowledgeable artist, learn the basic technique of conservation framing. This process is the framing procedure where all materials that come in contact with the artwork are completely acid-free. Using acid-free materials in every step of the process should minimize deterioration of the artwork caused by exposure to pollutants and environmental conditions. This framing method is a layered process combining acid-free, protective materials: a sturdy backing board, an impermeable layer, the back mat, the artwork or print, the window mat or matting series, the glazing and frame. Do use recommended conservation techniques when hinging and securing the artwork, using the proper tape, mounts, or acid-free adhesives.
Essentially, conservation framing creates an encased environment designed to protect and preserve the art, while creating a display for appreciation. It’s also important to know:
As a preventative, use high-quality window mats combined with a chemically stable, quality back mat. Conservation quality boards – aka alkaline or acid-free boards - are an essential step and a preventive; museum quality materials are sometimes the preservationist must. As the conservator’s recommended basic: the mat is larger than the work, of 4-ply thickness, alkaline with a pH of 7.5–10, 100% cotton rag or purified woodpulp. Select conservation mat supplies such as museum or archival quality mat boards are also buffered. This buffer ingredient is a neutralizing agent and is critical when artwork is fragile or subject to deteriorating climates, pollutions or risky conditions.
Finally, always store art properly and when the masterpiece sells, recommend an ideal environment for your artwork. The ideal is a clean space — free of heavy dust and drafts, a space with climate control — a room or wall with indirect lighting or spotlighting that’s properly mounted and adjusted so it doesn’t damage the work. Artwork thrives in a comfort zone that’s basically no different than your own.
Recommended Reading & Additional Resources
Restoring your Family Photographs is another excellent online resource via Cornell University.
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