Once you have bought your piece of art, it is important to treat it with care and
to remember that caring for art is an ongoing process. Not only is this art an investment,
it is presumably also something of value to you, because you like it. With informed
and correct handling it can remain in good condition for years to come. Educating
yourself about how to protect your artwork is a must if you plan to continue collecting
and investing in art.
Please Note: If your painting does get damaged, DO NOT attempt to fix it yourself.
Take it to the place of purchase for a referral or look up a qualified conservator.
Amateur repairs can reduce the value of your artwork drastically.
SOME BASIC INSTRUCTIONS Do not lean
anything against the surface of a canvas. This may seem obvious, but
it is something with one can do without paying much attention! It is very easy to
rip, tear, or even scratch a painting, be it on canvas or paper. The best way to
avoid accidents is to store your paintings away from anything that might press against
the surface. Try not to lean paintings on one another when storing them. Separate
them with pieces of cardboard to avoid damage.
Handling Art When handling works on paper, you should
touch the surface as little as possible. When you have to touch it, make sure your
hands are clean and dry. To lift it, use both hands, one on either side, to support
the work and keep your fingers away from the image. When going through a portfolio
or a stack of works on paper, slide the paper between the index and third finger
rather than using your thumb. Thumbprints have a way of finding themselves on the
edges! The jury is out on wearing gloves, which, some experts feel, can cause more
damage as they are less sensitive than the hand. If you do decide to use gloves
makes sure they are 100% cotton. (Latex gloves should only be used when handling
sculpture, as they are non-slip).
Works executed in pastel and charcoals require extra care as the medium is easily
smudged. It is also a dust magnet! As far as possible, keep works on paper framed
with an acid-free mount, which minimises friction and static, and protects the art.
Care should also be taken while handling prints, as their paper is easily stained
with oils and moisture present in our skin.
Remember that fingerprints, and the grime they carry, are amongst the worst offenders
when it comes to damage. It is also one of the toughest to reverse.
Keep your paintings out of direct sunlight. Over-exposure
to sunlight, and, in particular, to UV rays, is one of the most common causes of
damage to artwork. Even if your painting has a protective layer of varnish, it is
still possible for it to crack, fade or bleed when subjected to bright sunlight.
Our sunlight is particularly damaging, and can ruin artwork even with limited exposure.
This is true of all artwork. Canvas can become dry and paint can flake off and varnish
can bleed. Wood can crack due to altering levels of humidity. Photographs DO fade
and Paper, especially, if exposed to extreme heat or sunlight over long periods
of time, can become brittle and crack and tear very easily. Mixed media is even
more complicated as it uses myriad materials and different techniques at the same
Avoid subjecting your Artworks to fluctuating temperatures, and
extreme changes in atmosphere. Extreme fluctuations in humidity and
temperature count as amongst the most detrimental factors to the life of a work
of art. Inconstancy in the atmosphere leads to accelerated aging, which can take
many forms. For example, while humidity can cause mould and foxing, an overly dry
room can cause the artwork to dry out. Either way, fluctuating temperatures can
affect the canvas on a stretcher, becoming slack or too tight, which in turn affects
the medium on the canvas.
Therefore take care to avoid exposing your art to excessive dryness, humidity, heat
or cold. This means that your artwork should not be placed in excessively damp areas
such as in a bathroom, kitchen or near any air conditioning.
Also, keep artwork away from direct sources of heat. If an artwork is placed too
near a radiator, fireplace or heater, it can be at risk of heat damage. This can
cause the paints and varnishes to age, causing bleeding, cracks, flaking and tears.
In addition, heat can also cause photographs to buckle at the edges and bubble in
the middle. In winter, as rooms can become over-heated, place a bowl of water near
your heat source to prevent the air getting too dry.
Wood is particularly sensitive to temperature changes. When purchasing an artwork
made of wood it is best to inquire whether the wood has been treated and whether
it should be periodically oiled. However, some artists feel that, given its organic
nature, changes in wood are natural and come with the territory so, if your piece
does show slight signs of mortality and aging – like a deepening in colour – do
not worry too much. This is giving it a patina, increasing its desirability. However,
if huge splits and cracks appear they must be addressed. Remember however, that wood,
bronze, stone etc are organic materials so any restoration must be done in a restrained
manner so as not to alter the natural process of the work acquiring a patina of
Inert materials are also vulnerable to humidity. Metals may corrode or tarnish;
stone and ceramics may lose water and crystallize and glass can produce salts and
Experts advise a steady temperature of around 70 degrees with a maximum humidity
level of 70% and a minimum of 30% (the ideal humidity level being 50%). If this
sounds complicated just remember that generally, artwork is best kept in similar
temperature environments as for human comfort.
Protect your Artwork from common household pollutants.
Dust is the most common of household pollutants that can cause damage to artwork.
Textile artworks are particularly vulnerable and should be vacuumed very gently
to remove dust. Glass covered surfaces should be cleaned gently with a soft cloth
sprayed with window detergent. Avoid using the detergent sprayed cloth on wooden
frames, and use a separate cloth to dust these. Artwork without a glass cover should
not be cleaned with a cloth or feather dusters as they can catch on surfaces. It
is best to use sable or badger-hair brushes, bought abroad.
Any smoke can cause a piece of artwork to discolour and turn yellow and the smell
of smoke can easily be absorbed by a painting. Smoke and heat from an open fireplace
will affect artwork. Avoid exposing artwork to open fires. If you must, make sure
it is mounted at least 90cm above the fireplace.
It is best, also, to avoid positioning textile artworks in rooms with food odours,
as textiles absorb smells. Moths will readily damage textiles. If there is an infestation
of moths in your house, it is best to get them removed through fumigation. However,
make sure that you remove your artwork before getting the place fumigated, as the
chemicals themselves can damage your artwork.
Dealing with Waves on an artwork
Waves or puckering on a canvas that has been kept rolled, or has loosened from its
stretcher, can sometimes be dealt with by turning the work upside down and going
over it lightly with a damp cloth. In the case of oils this can be a cloth dampened
by linseed oil.
Please do NOT attempt this with paper! Paper waves are far more complex to deal
with and have to go to a qualified restorer.
TRANSPORTING ART Framed Paintings:
Be sure to put a piece of cardboard over the front to protect the canvas,
and then put bubble wrap around it. Rough handling can damage both the painting
and the frame, so pack it securely even if you are moving it a short distance.
If your painting is behind glass, criss-cross the glass with masking tape to strengthen
it. This way, even if the glass does break, the pieces will remain in place for
Best of all, after all these steps, have the painting crated – especially if it
is being transported out of town. Professional packers will do this for you, for
a relatively small sum of money.
Most people use a tube (plastic or cardboard) to transport an unframed canvas. This is not the best option as there
are many risks involved, but it is often the most convenient. So…if you are using
this method roll it as loosely as possible with the painted surface on the outer
If you want to be extra careful purchase two tubes of different diameters. Roll
your canvas around the smaller tube (painted side outward) and insert it into the
Do not use bubble wrap or any other plastic or paper while rolling the artwork as
it can stick to the painting and/or leave an imprint.
Unroll the work as soon as possible.
N.B: Works on paper should never be rolled or placed in a tube. Paper is very fragile
and rolling it may cause irreparable damage.
The other method by which to transport unframed oil paintings safely, is to place
some wax paper on the front of the painting before you place the work between 2
layers of cardboard, foam or wood. Tape the cardboard securely. Remember that oil
paintings have varnish on them and if the work is in a very hot area for a period
of time, the varnish can become sticky.
To transport works on paper protect it with acid free tissue paper on both sides
of the work. Place 2 layers of cardboard, or any other rigid material, on both sides
of the art to prevent any bending. Tape around the outside of the cardboard to prevent
N.B: Wrapping materials that come in direct contact with your work of art can cause
damage. Some plastic and bubble wraps emit vapours which can potentially harm, so,
it is not advisable to leave your artwork packed for too long.
Wrap your sculpture in a blanket or any other soft material before placing it in
an appropriately sized box. Place additional packing materials inside the box –
foam pellets, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, newspaper, tissue paper etc - the more
the better, as it will fill vacant spaces and act as a shock absorber. Seal the
If you are not displaying your works on paper, the best way to store them is in
a chest used for architectural drawing and blueprints or another specially designed
case that protects them from humidity, light and dirt.
Acid-free folders or portfolios can also be used within such chests or cases, but
must always be placed flat or horizontally. If you are storing several works in
one drawer or folder, interleave them with acid-free tissue paper. Normal plastic
sleeves are not recommended for storing paper artworks.
A stable storage environment is very important, and fluctuations in temperature
and humidity, particularly in the short term, must be minimised. The best environment
for the storage of artworks is a cool, dry one with good air circulation. For this
reason, if your art is very valuable, store it in a sealed, air-conditioned room,
with de-humidifiers which are regularly checked for upkeep. The paintings should
be checked, and dusted regularly.
Do not cover paintings 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
Make sure you do not lean paintings against one another, without some protective
padding in between.
Ceramics and Glass
Store and display your ceramics and glass in a secure place. This may sound like
common sense, but is sometimes overlooked. Given that we live in an earthquake zone,
it is important that ceramics and glass are not put on shaky shelving. Even hanging
on walls is to be avoided, as we ourselves have had valuable ceramic plates come
crashing down during an earthquake. Also, make sure that you do not display breakable
art in areas that people are likely to bump into.
Keep out of sunlight. Most glass and ceramics will not fade without prolonged exposure,
but don’t take chances by leaving them in bright light for long periods of time,
especially if they are hand-painted.
Handle ceramics very carefully. If you grab a small protruding detail on your vase,
plate, or other ceramic or glass piece, it may break off. Hold the whole piece firmly
and carefully, and preferably by the base.
Try to avoid putting liquid in your glass pieces. Though people usually don’t use
art glass for this purpose, if you do choose to put a liquid into your glass piece,
do not leave it in for a long period of time. It is likely to leave a stain. Also,
remember that putting an extremely hot or cold liquid into your glass may cause
it to crack.
Wash your glass carefully, and always by hand – never in a dishwasher! Strong items
can be washed gently (if absolutely necessary) in lukewarm water with a bit of gentle
dish soap and a soft rag and air dried. If you have any doubt about the structure
of your glass object, do not immerse it in water. Just wipe gently with a damp cloth.
Do not display ceramic plates on metal prongs. Many people make this mistake when
displaying ceramics. Over time, this can damage the surface of your ceramic piece,
even chipping or cracking it.
Do not immerse porous ceramics like earthenware in liquid. They can be washed gently
(see the glass washing method above), but not left to soak as they absorb water.
This can cause many different problems (cracking, water stains deep in the piece,
Keep bronze away from extreme heat, cold or humidity. A sudden change in atmosphere
might change the color of the surface of the bronze (called the patina). You must
try and preserve the patina, as this is part of the beauty and value of the material.
Bronzes do not usually need cleaning, apart from dusting with a soft cloth. You
may vacuum your bronze, and if it is absolutely necessary, you can spot wash a dirty
section with mild soap and distilled water.
Avoid abrasive products while cleaning the surface. Bronzes are strong enough to
last through the centuries if you keep them out of harm’s way, and the surface patina
will age nicely if left alone, adding to the piece’s value. Do not alter this surface
by using any cleaners that remove the color or scrape into the patina.
For any repairs, call a professional. Do not attempt to glue or solder a piece yourself,
because a shoddy repair can decrease the value of your piece. Also, if you observe
any serious changes in the patina, contact a professional for advice.
Carved stone can usually be thought of as any piece of stone which is cut in three
dimensions to form an artwork. Marble, granite, limestone and sandstone are the
most common stones that artists work with, but each of these varies substantially
in appearance and behavior.
Even though stone is considered one of the most durable materials, stone sculptures
may decay or be damaged due to several factors, including environmental decay. Having
said that, dirt on the surface of a stone sculpture, especially one stored outdoors,
is not usually a problem and even functions as a protective layer in most cases.
If, however, your stone pieces are antiques, they then require stable, controlled
environments for display. In such situations, you will need to seek the advice of
The surfaces of carved stones should not be cleaned regularly, as the action of
cleaning can cause accelerated deterioration (especially to sandstones). Also, repeated
handling of stone sculptures can also lead to the formation of stains from the oils
present in skin. If it is absolutely necessary, cleaning should be carried out by
a professional conservator, using gentle means such as bristle brushes and water.
Detergents and other chemical agents should be avoided at all costs.