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Proper care of your artwork is an essential aspect of building a collection. This may seem like a daunting task if you are a first time collector, however, it is crucial to manage your collection with the utmost care in order to preserve, prevent damage, and protect your investment. Here you will find information, instructions and guidelines on the necessary steps to care for your art including how to frame, install, clean and store your pieces.

All drawings, paintings on paper and prints that are not in storage should be framed to protect them from direct sunlight, humidity, moisture, dust and heat. The following should be considered when framing your artwork:

  • Matting…

A mat window and backboard made of 100% rag board or, lignin-free, alkaline-buffered mat board should be used to mat your artwork.

The two most common techniques for matting artwork are float mounting and over matting. Float mounting presents the work so the artwork “floats” on top of the mat, with the edges of the paper exposed. Over matting presents the work under a mat, so the edges are totally covered and the work is viewable through a cut window. This method adds depth and texture to the appearance of the framed artwork.

  • Attachment of the artwork…

Attachment of the artwork to the mat or mount is done by hinging using high-quality Japanese paper and a permanent, non-staining, reversible adhesive. Homemade starch paste is the choice of conservators. Avoid commercial tapes, including those advertised as archival. If you want to try to do your own matting, a Paper Conservator can advise you about where best to source materials.

  • Protective glazing, either glass or rigid acrylic…

The artwork must not be in direct contact with the glazing material. Ultraviolet filtering products, available in glass as well as plastic, are recommended to protect against the most destructive component of light. Note that acrylics carry a static charge and must not be used with pastels, charcoal, or other powdery or flaking mediums.

  • Back of the frame…

An additional protective layer of sturdy, lignin-free cardboard at the back of the frame should be included. The frame must also be well sealed to minimize entry of air.

Remember, the frame should compliment and enhance the work, not overpower it. Consult with a professional to choose the appropriate frame and ensure the art will be preserved in its original condition.

Art is extremely fragile and must be handled and installed with great care and sensitivity. It is important to know the exact material of the artwork in order to handle it properly and prevent damage. Always handle artwork with cloth gloves to prevent fingerprints or dirt from touching the work. You can find these gloves at a photography or art supply store.

Although hanging small works of art yourself may appear easy, hiring a professional installer can avoid many problems. A professional can offer unique solutions as to where and how to place the work without damaging your walls.

If you choose to hang artwork yourself, it is a good idea to first visualize the arrangement of your collection on paper or digitally. Steer clear of hanging work in areas such as kitchens or bathrooms, or near air conditioners, vents, fans and windows. Note that sunlight, humidity, and high temperatures can damage your art.

It is a good idea to periodically check your artwork as dirt makes the surface look dull and can cause deterioration. It is best to handle artwork while wearing cloth gloves to avoid getting fingerprints or dirt on the surface of the work. Do not apply cleaning solutions, solvents, sprays, or insecticides near or directly to any work of art. Use canned air or a soft, natural bristle brush to clean paintings.

For acrylic frames, the surface should be cleaned with an anti-static plastic cleaner – not commercial glass cleaner. Use a non-abrasive cloth and first spray the plastic cleaner on the cloth before you clean the surface. Do not use paper towels as they will cause scratches and leave a residue on the surface. Glass frames should be cleaned using a smear-free glass cleaner and a clean, soft, lint-free cloth.

Depending on the size of your art collection, you may store your art at home or off-site at a professional art storage facility. The most important factors when storing art are protection and preservation. Storing art in a clean, safe, fire-proof, temperature-controlled environment can prevent accumulation of mold, moisture, fading, tarnish, abrasion and other damage.

If you store work at home, designate a secure, clean and closed-off area. It is best to have strong shelves and a padded surface off the floor on which art can be placed. Heavier work should be placed closer to the ground. Organize your storage by artist, media, or size. If you are storing work in a portfolio case or on a shelf, first secure the work between two pieces of foam-core or cardboard and store the work flat.

If your art collection is being stored for a long period of time or if you do not have the available space, an off-site art storage facility is a great option. When choosing a storage facility, we recommend the following minimum requirements:

  • 24/7 security system
  • Fire resistant structure
  • Climate controlled
  • Dedicated storage vaults with 24-hour turnkey access
  • Monitored, restricted and documented access to the facility
  • Private vaults for collectors requiring a higher level of security and privacy
  • Personal inspection of the facility

Art insurance protects you from financial loss when works are damaged, lost or stolen. You take out insurance on art just like you take out insurance on a car or a property.

Our recommendation is to work with an insurance company that has experience and specializes in insuring art. They tend to be better at addressing claims than large all-purpose insurance companies because they understand how the art business works, how to value art and how to reach reasonable settlements.

Buy as much insurance as you can comfortably afford, whether or not that amount covers the entire value of your pieces. Most loss, damage, or theft affects only a portion, not the entire, collection. Receiving some compensation is better than receiving no compensation at all!

Make sure you understand your insurance policy. This means reading the fine print, and asking every question about every conceivable loss or damage situation that you can think of. You don’t want to find out after a loss that you were not covered for that specific type of loss.

It is important to retain basic information and documentation for each artwork in your collection. Documentation should be kept current and stored in a safe place. It is best to keep your collection records in both paper and digital format. There are several collection management software programmes available, though if you are just starting or have a small collection, you may find it just as efficient to use Excel or a similar database system.

Documenting your collection helps with the following:

  • Insurance claims
  • Restoration
  • Ownership records
  • Accurate representation in publications
  • Tracking museum or gallery loans

Using an appropriate database system, we recommend entering the following data for each artwork:

  • Artist name
  • Title of the artwork
  • Medium
  • Edition (for limited edition prints)
  • Year produced
  • Size
  • Markings or inscriptions

Documentation of the purchase, condition report, invoices, provenance and appraisals are also important to keep.

Tip #1    Keep your artwork out of direct sunlight. Your art might have a protective layer of varnish, but it is still possible for it to crack or fade if subjected to bright sunlight for long periods of time.

Tip #2    Do not lean anything against the surface of a canvas. Objects near a painting may not seem sharp enough to pierce the canvas, but it is always surprising what will cause a scratch or a rip. Prevent accidents and store your artwork away from anything that might press against the surface. Try not to lean artwork on one another when storing them, but if you have to, make sure to separate them with pieces of cardboard to avoid damage.

Tip #3    Dust your artwork with a soft, white-bristle Japanese brush, sable (such as a typical makeup brush), or badger-hair brush (called “blenders”) occasionally, to prevent dust buildup. Don’t use cleaning products or water!

Tip # 4   Commercial preparations can cause irreparable damage to artwork. Avoid using pesticides, air fresheners, or furniture sprays on or near artwork. Remove art from a room before painting, plastering, or steam cleaning carpets. Return only when the walls and floors are dry.

Tip #5    Hang your artwork away from very busy and possibly messy areas. Over time, art can accumulate a thin layer of dust and pollutants, airborne grime from cooking oils, particles from smoking and insect specks. If there is a place to display your piece away from these things, or where it will be somewhat less exposed, try to position it there.

Tip #6    Wrap your artwork well if you plan to transport it. Be sure to put a heavy piece of cardboard over the front and back to protect it. Then bubble wrap and place in a suitable heavy cardboard box. Rough handling can damage both the artwork and the frame so pack it securely.

Tip #7    Try to avoid subjecting your artwork to extreme changes in atmosphere. Avoid excessive dryness, humidity, heat or cold. All of these conditions can affect the state of your art in a negative way (canvas puckering, paint cracking, etc.).

Tip #8    If your artwork does get damaged, don’t fix it yourself! Contact a qualified art conservator. Amateur repairs can reduce the value of your artwork drastically.

Tip #9    Do not frame artwork on canvas under glass. The canvas needs to breathe. If it is framed under glass you may trap moisture inside the frame. Canvases experience small, subtle shifts over time due to mild atmospheric changes, so it is best to leave them without glass to allow them to flow with these changes.

Tip #10  Do not cover artwork with plastic for long periods of time. If there is humidity in the air, they may start to grow mold. Cotton sheets are best for keeping dust away.

Tip #11  Check the condition of your artwork periodically. Many people put up an artwork and forget about it, until they notice that it has been damaged. If an artwork is fading or cracking, a brief peek at it can prompt you to move it to a better place and avoid damaging it further.

Tip #12  When cleaning glass or acrylic, spray your selected cleaning solution directly onto your cloth and never directly onto the surface or the frame itself. Gently wipe the surface, taking care to avoid the cleaning solution coming into contact with the frame. Continue wiping until all traces of the cleaning solution have evaporated.

Tip #13  Insure your artwork. Receiving some compensation is better than receiving no compensation at all!

If you would like more detailed information on Art Conservation, Insurance and Storage, we recommend contacting the following people:

Art Preservation, Conservation and Restoration

Pia Josephine Chang
Principal Conservator
The PIA Studio
Tel: +65 6760 2602
M: +65 9118 7478

Professional Art Storage

Lai Wee Meng
Global Specialised Services
Tel: +65 6452 6123
M +65 9270 6789

Insurance Broker

Sheila Goh
Insurance Agent
Federal Insurance Company
M: +65 9830 1263

Photography (Cataloguing Collections)

Peter Paul Tan
Blessings & Gifts
M: +65 9663 7885