Although art cannot be enjoyed without light, it is important to be aware that light can cause permanent damage to prints, drawings and even paintings. Heat and light accelerate fading and discoloration of paper, but the amount of destruction depends on the intensity and duration of exposure to these elements. Invisible ultraviolet rays from sunlight and fluorescent lighting cause the most damage.
Avoid hanging art in direct or reflected sunlight. Draw blinds or shades during the brightest part of the day to help prevent damage. Once fading occurs, there is no way to restore the colors. You might also consider rotating artwork. Remember, when handling a picture, use both hands on top and bottom or both sides. If a picture is heavy, have another person help transport it.
If you must illuminate artwork, use a picture light with a low-wattage incandescent bulb. Turn the light on only when you are viewing the piece. This will keep the heat and exposure to light at a minimum.
If fluorescent light can’t be avoided, as in most offices, the tubes should be always covered with special cylindrical sleeves that filter the ultraviolet rays.
Insects quietly attack and damage paper and canvas. Silverfish and cockroaches, among others, can feed on our artwork. They attack not only paper and fabric, but also glues and some types of pigments. Insects can quickly cause damage, so they should be dealt with promptly. Cleanliness, control of moisture, and regular inspections are good preventative measures. If you find pests are present, take the piece to your professional framer for an evaluation of the damage.
TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY
The temperature and relative humidity of the room in which art is displayed is very important. Ideally, the humidity should be 50 percent and the temperature 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperature and humidity rise and there is little air circulation, the possibility of mold and mildew growth increases.
It is important to maintain a steady temperature throughout the entire year. An air conditioner, dehumidifier or humidifier can be of considerable help. However, if the climate-controlling device is turned off at night or on weekends/holidays, a sufficient change in moisture content of the air can take place causing temporary or permanent damage to your artwork.
Just as you see that pets and plants are properly cared for during and extended absence, so should you care for your valued art. Have the house aired periodically by a friend or neighbor.
Air should be allowed to circulate behind a picture. Spacers or bumpers placed on the two lower corners of a frame will tilt it out a bit from the wall, allowing air circulation.
A small amount of rippling or waving of a print can be expected. However, high humidity causes hygroscopic (moisture absorbing) materials, such as paper, canvas and sheepskin, to swell.
If the humidity is excessive, it can cause severe buckling as well as mold growth. Hygroscopic materials shrink when exposed to low humidity, and extremely low humidity over a period of time can damage fibers causing embrittlement. For localized buckling, consult your framer.
Do not store or hang artwork in any location that can experience extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity. That includes attics, basements (even if finished), damp outside walls, over fireplaces, near heating or air-conditioning ducts, by outside doors, under bright lights or in direct sunlight.
Also, remember that kitchens and bathrooms produce steam and heat, resulting in an unhealthy environment for your valuable works of art.
When purchasing framed artwork, it would be wise to have it checked by a professional framer to be certain proper steps were taken to protect it. Improper framing could very well cause unnecessary deterioration resulting in a devaluation of the artwork.
Art on paper or canvas is fragile. Paints, stains and pigments, as well as the paper and canvas, are all vulnerable to environmental conditions within our homes and offices. Too much or too little heat in a room, high humidity, poor air circulation, sunlight, and artificial light can cause irreparable damage to paintings, drawings, and prints.
Works of art have many natural enemies. Don’t be one of them. Protect your art and it will remain a treasure for a long time to come.
(Copyright PPFA 1993, Revised October 2003)
(PPFA – Professional Picture Framers Association)