Whether you keep your fine art in your home or a gallery, in storage or on display, it is wise to take steps to ensure that it is properly preserved for generations to come. While different types of art and materials each have specific preservation guidelines, all works of art benefit from a safe environment.
Security and alarms are a great first step in preserving your collection. For early detection of smoke and fire, install centrally monitored smoke detectors in or near all areas of display, which commonly includes the living room, dining room, and foyer. Confirm with your alarm company that all accessible points of entry, including doors, windows, fire escapes, and skylights, are alarmed, and install supplemental interior motion detectors or glass break sensors. You should also consider installing a water leak detection system and monitoring sensors to notify you of potential water damage issues or harmful fluctuations in temperature and/or humidity.
Below are tips to consider specific to the type of material or media your artwork includes:
Panel paintings can be particularly fragile as wood can crack or warp in reaction to temperature or humidity fluctuations.
Oil on canvas paintings are also susceptible to environmental damage through cracking and cleavages of the different paint layers or deformations of the canvas support.
Art on paper is susceptible to the acidic elements contained within most commercial paper stock, which, over time, can react internally to destabilize the paper. Works of art made using poor quality paper are particularly prone to deterioration, especially if the paper is mounted on acidic backing boards or mats, which can cause discoloration and embrittlement. Minute metal shavings, introduced during the paper manufacturing process, can also corrode when exposed to humidity, resulting in dark rust spots as the paper, known as foxing.
Vases and bowls can break, scratch or crack.
Sculptural objects may get knocked over or damaged.
Photographs, watercolors, works with colored inks, and textiles can fade with exposure to ultra violet (“UV”) radiation from sunlight or artificial light sources.
Works of art on paper or textiles are also susceptible to damage due to improper framing.
Artwork with powdery or loose pigment such as pastels or charcoal can be damaged by static build-up if not properly framed.
One final important note: Most materials used in fine art—including those listed above—are best preserved when displayed in consistent levels of temperature and humidity. You should choose a location that’s out of direct traffic, and avoid displaying pieces near blind corners or directly below water sources, such as a bathroom, sprinkler head, and HVAC vents.