Inside the state-of-theart Roberto M. Lopez Conservation Center. Photograph by Ena Lopez Terol
Culture Art

How to care for your paintings

If not preserved properly, a painting can incur damages that aren’t visible to the naked eye. Ahead of the busy art fair season and the inevitable acquisitions you will make, here are some guidelines to make sure your collection shines best. 
Patricia Tumang | Feb 18 2019

A tropical climate poses a challenge to collectors who want to protect their paintings from humidity and heat. Conservator Missy Sanares-Reyes offers basic steps in protecting your artwork—especially important in a country like the Philippines, which is hot and humid year-round.

 

Get acid-free framing.

Make sure your artwork is framed well using acid-free materials. Acids can cause brittleness and foxing stains on your artwork.

 

Control humidity.

Hang your painting in a place far from a source of water. Aquariums or even plants that retain water can cause mold to grow on a painting. Buying a dehumidifier is worth it in the long run, particularly if you collect the works of the masters. Humidity must be maintained below 60 percent.

 

Avoid excessive heat.

Moderate temperature is best for your painting. For works on paper, the pigments can fade from too much heat and light. For paintings on canvas, on the other hand, the heat and cold can cause the canvas to expand and contract, which leads to cracking and later, paint loss.

 

Avoid direct sunlight.

Paintings should be hung away from direct sunlight. Use blinds or shades for added protection. Some serious collectors go the extra mile and ensure that the window glass provides UV protection.

 

Hang it, instead of storing it.

The best way to store your painting is to hang it. This  way, it gets enough air circulation and it can be inspected regularly. Many paintings have been neglected in storage and they end up eaten by termites, besieged by mold, or accidentally knocked by other objects that create holes and tears.

 

Safeguard your artwork if you must store it.

When a painting is in storage, build elevated shelves and file them as you would books. Wrap each painting in cotton cheesecloth (it helps the painting breathe) and place a sheet of corrugated board in between the artworks. If you will use bubble wrap, place silica gel packets inside to prevent mold. Use one 5-gram silica gel pack per square foot of space.

 

Seek advice from a conservator if there is damage.

If damage is found, do not to touch the artwork. Some collectors wipe the surface with linseed oil or a wet rag, and that makes it worse. Call any of the local museums since they usually have a resident conservator for first aid help. Many are willing to give generous advice.

However, if the artwork is moldy, get the painting out of the damp place and bring it to a spot where there is air circulating at a safe distance away from people. Do not wipe, brush and spread the mold spores as breathing these in can make one ill.

 

Photographs by Ena Lopez Terol

This article first appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 4 2011.