Art, like pets and children and houseplants, requires specific care for it to reach old age in good health. Many collectors think they are doing the right things to ensure their artworks will hang on future generations' walls, but often they have been misled.
"Those little lights that people put over top of their paintings are the worst thing they can do for their art," explained Jenine Culligan, senior curator for the Huntington Museum of Art. "It's not only the light, but the heat from the bulbs."
Culligan said people don't realize that the damage from light comes from the full spectrum of light, not just the ultraviolet rays. "They think they are protected because they have UV filtering windows, but the brightness is bad, especially for works on paper, such as watercolors, drawings, prints."
Aside from hanging the artworks away from direct sunlight, UV-filtering glass is available when a piece is framed. "Watercolor is most prone to fading, so it is best to hang it out of direct sunlight and it should have UV glass on it," said Lisa Fischer Casto, owner of The Art Store.
Then there's the issue of moisture. The Huntington Museum has an advantage over the typical collector. "We work in an artificial environment here, of course. We keep the humidity at 50 percent, and a computerized system sounds an alarm if it goes below 45 or above 55," Culligan said. "Our temperature is constant as well, at 68 to 72."
Quick fluctuations in temperature are disastrous. "Don't put anything in front of a vent," she advises private collectors.
Casto pointed out that oil paintings on canvas or linen "need to breathe, so you never put glass on them."
Both Culligan and Casto agree that any work on paper should touch only acid-free materials. "Use 100 percent cotton rag, archival mats," Culligan said. "Wood pulp is what is acidic, and it's not in the rag mats." Casto added that the foam core backing should be acid-free as well.
"You should never mount original art by gluing. If it has to be attached, it should be hinged," Casto explained. "There are many types of hinges - all should be acid-free as should the adhesive used with them. Hinges are used because they release if the art is jarred or jostled, which prevents the art from being torn."
When framing an oil painting, Culligan stresses using a rabbet lining. "It's actually just a felt or velvet piece that goes anywhere the paint touches the frame. It prevents abrasions."
Sculptures, especially bronze, should be handled with gloves when possible. "The oils from your skin will etch fingerprints onto bronze," Culligan said.
Moisture can cause "bronze disease," which is like rust but doesn't happen as quickly. Museums and private collectors use a type of silicon wax on their bronze artworks to avoid damage from human touch.
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 348-1249.