Art Conservation

Some art conservation basics that should apply to the conservation of your precious art prints.

Works of art on paper are by their very nature fragile, and the aging of a print is a natural chemical and biological process. Some of the problems that you could face as a collector of art prints may include the following.

Light affects all artwork. Exposing prints to direct sunshine or strong sources of artificial light (incandescent bulbs or flourescent tubes etc.) is one of the worst and most frequent problems leading to the deterioration of the colour and condition of your prints.

Humidity may cause brownish spots to appear over the print. Storing art prints in a high humidity environment without air circulation will inevitably cause damage. Also, humidity attracts pests like silverfish. More danger for your art prints.

Heat is a problem in art conservation. Exposing prints to extreme temperature fluctuations will cause expansion and contraction of the paper. Museums keep a constant temperature in their exhibition rooms. The storage location of your prints should also be a constant temperature. In winter, rooms are often overheated and the humidity is too low. Relative humidity should be between 40% and 60%. You can place bowls of water on radiators if necessary. Not only will your art works on paper appreciate it , but so will your antique furniture. Do not hang an art print over heating sources. And if you must decorate your bathroom with paper art, please use a cheap poster or a cheap reproduction without any value.

Pollution is also a problem in art conservation, and will affect your prints. Pollution comes in the form of acids in papers and furniture, dust, or dirt on your hands. It causes colours to fade and may lead to discolouration of the paper. Your art print should be printed on acid free archival paper.

Storage of Art Prints.

Special metal cabinets are preferred for art conservation and the storing of prints and maps. A normal cabinet does not have the necessary depth to store large sized prints. Metal cabinets are better than wooden ones because metal has no chemicals to emit. Many wooden cabinets made today are constructed with particleboard of MDF. The chemicals in these products break down as they age and will emit chemicals that are harmful to your prints.

The prints should never be stored in a way that two prints are in direct contact with each other. Put each art print into a separate acid free folder and store them horizontally.

You should also regularly check your prints for signs of the presence of insects. Silverfishwill destroy the aesthetic pleasure and the financial value of your prints.

Transportation of Prints.

The transportation of prints requires excellent packaging. Prints shipped flat is preferable, although this is rarely practical. When a print is rolled and sent in a tube (the most common shipment method), it should be taken out immediately after it's arrival and stored correctly.

Framing Art Prints.

Always frame with acid free mats and archival materials. Any framer you use should know archival framing. First of all the prints should not have any direct contact with the glass, therefore matting is recommended, and let me repeat, only use acid free materials of archival quality. Your framer should only employ art conservation techniques in all framing of your art prints. 

What kind of glass to use? Normal or acrylic? Normal glass is less expensive but acrylic plastic is considered as the better solution. It causes no condensation and most acrylic plastic is offered with ultravoilet light absorbing properties. Ask your framer for advice on protection against ultraviolet light. Plexiglass does not shatter like normal glass if accidentally broken. Plastic glass comes mostly as a non-reflecting glass.

Art galleries, dealers and framers use special adhesive tapes to fix the print to the mat. It is not damaging to your print. However it often dries out in a few years and need attention. If possible, avoid tapes at all. Specify acid free archival hinges.

As previously mentioned above, do not hang framed prints exposed to direct sunlight, and do not place them too close to strong lamps. Not only bright light, but also heat is given off by the bulbs, and this can damage your art. Remember, light is a form of heat.

Handling of Art Prints.

Professionals recommend not touching art prints with your hands and recommend wearing white cotton gloves. This is good advice, but it is a difficult practise to maintain. If you do not use gloves when handling your prints, make sure your hands are clean. Especially ensure your hands are free of any trace of grease or oils.

Never Cut or Trim Your Art Prints.

Never ever trim a print by cutting off it's margins or any part of it. It is essential for a serious collector that the original integrity of the print is maintained, and cutting or trimming your print will affect the value.

Lastly, always think in terms of art conservation for your prints. The better condition of your prints the greater the value, and the more appeal they will have for collectors, and add to your enjoyment of the art. Practise art conservation techniques with your prints.