We believe that art should be experienced, enjoyed and shared. However, proactive preservation is also an important part of collecting works of art on paper. As a medium, paper is relatively fragile. It can tear and crinkle with use, absorb moisture from the air, grow brittle when too dry, and fade over time in direct sunlight. Yet, despite all odds, works of art on paper have survived for hundreds of years. As a collector, how you care for your collection is of upmost importance. By understanding the sensitivities of the medium and the best practices for collection care, you can preserve your art for the next hundred years.
Whether you own a single print or a collection, the care of your art begins with an understanding of its sensitivities.
- Light – Any work of art on paper, particularly those rendered with plant-based pigments, is sensitive to fading when exposed to UV rays. Certain colors, such as blue and yellow, are particularly fugitive.
- Moisture – Moisture can pose a threat both in excess and in absence. Too much moisture creates a hospitable surface for mold and, in some cases, color bleeding. On the other hand, a lack of moisture can turn the paper brittle.
- Acidity – The acidity of storage folders, mat board or storage containers can lead to paper discoloration. This issue commonly presents as “toning,” where the entire work is browned, or “mat burn,” where the edges of the paper once held beneath the mat turn slightly brown.
- Pests – As an organic material, paper presents an appealing meal for certain insects.
Best Practices for Storage, Framing and
Safe storage and display requires an understanding of the artwork’s sensitivities and proactive preservation measures. Respect your art – never trim or mark the piece in any way. Any necessary restoration should be completed by a qualified professional. Whether you decide to frame or to preserve your collection in an archival storage box, follow the best practices detailed below.
Archival Storage Box
An archival storage box provides the best protection for works of art on paper. What do we mean by “archival” storage? This means that the box should be light safe and fully acid-free (also known as PH neutral). Inside the box, store each work flat in its own acid-free archival folder. For polyptychs, be sure to place a piece of archival paper between each sheet to prevent any color bleeding. Store the box away from heating vents or radiators to control heat and moisture-related condition problems. Although this approach weights preservation over display, your collection will be at your fingertips each time you open the box. When you do take out your works for viewing, be sure to handle them with clean, dry hands.
Framing and Display
It is important to remember that a framed work is sensitive to fading, even if you follow best practices. However, if you do choose to frame your art, here are several guidelines to follow.
- Choose archival materials – When you talk to your framer, make sure that they use 100% acid-free mat board, archival tape and a UV-filtering Plexiglas or glass for your art. The acid-free mat will prevent mat burn and toning, the archival tape will allow easy removal, and the UV-filtering Plexiglas or glass protects the work from the UV rays.
- Avoid direct sunlight – Even with the protection of UV-filtering Plexiglas or glass, direct sunlight will fade your work over time. Though some UV exposure is unavoidable, keep sun exposure in mind when you are deciding where to hang your art.
- Keep an eye on climate – This means you should avoid close proximity to heating vents and radiators. Avoid hanging your art in humid rooms such as bathrooms or rooms with poor temperature and moisture control.
- Rotate your display– To limit light exposure, you can rotate your works between "resting” periods and “exhibition” periods. This approach allows you to enjoy many different works from your collection, while giving the art a break. During the "rest" period, store the works in an archival box as described above. Many museums take this approach, for it balances the need to experience a work of art and the need to preserve it for future generations.
At the gallery, we frame our works in natural walnut frames with light cream-colored acid-free mats, but when you hang your art, aesthetics are up to you. All Ronin Gallery prints are shipped in individual archival folders. While we do not offer in-house framing, we’re happy to connect you with our preferred museum-grade framer.
Have a lingering question about how to care for your collection? We’re happy to help. Contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org.