Summer is here with a vengeance- with sweltering temperatures sweeping the area it can be hard to think about anything but keeping cool. But it’s a good time to spare a thought for your framed artwork, just to do a seasonal checkup. Summer weather is characterized by things that are a huge danger to the longevity of framed pieces, and most of those dangers can be alleviated with just a little care. These issues can be especially bad in summer homes and beach houses, where there might not be someone to watch out for them regularly.
If your picture is someplace without adequate AC, or up against a wall that heats up, watch out! Excessive heat can cause warping, discoloration, deterioration and worse- certain art materials can even melt! Especially rapid temperature changes can cause condensation to form on the inside of the glass (see the dangers of humidity, below). This is something to look out for in mountain climates or other places where the night temperature is much lower than the daytime temperatures. Keep an eye on pieces that hang in vacation homes, which tend to be in warm places where the AC might be turned off for long stretches of time. For best protection, keep your artwork in a shaded and climate controlled room, out of intense sunlight and away from heat-producing lamps. Talk to your framer about ways to alleviate heat damage for your specific frame: you can even add extra insulation to the back of your piece, if it’s especially heat sensitive.
Light is an art killer. Ironically, the thing that lets you see the art to its best effect is also the thing that damages it the most. The same UV rays that damage and degrade your patio furniture can work their evil magic on your frames as well. Many art materials are sensitive to UV rays and can bleach or change color after only moderate exposure to light. Old photos and watercolors are both especially susceptible to light damage. Even (especially!) indoor fluorescent lights can damage artwork! This can be a special concern in beach homes and other vacation properties where a bright sunlit interior is the norm. The best way to prevent light damage is to use UV protective glass on your artwork (the same way you’d use sunscreen on a child at the beach) and to keep the frame out of direct sunlight. Strategic planning and frame placement can keep your artwork and photos looking good for years.
Everyone knows that excessive moisture is no good for upholstery, floors, drapery and other household accessories, so of course its not good for artwork either! But humidity can be insidious in the summer, especially in shore-houses and other water adjacent places, or during those unpredictable summer storms. Humidity can cause cockling (wrinkling in paper), warping, stickiness, and even mold growth! Moisture can also cause mounting (the tape or adhesive holding the art in place) to come unglued. Dry mounting or re-hinging moisture-damaged pieces is a good idea, if you notice moisture damage. Sometimes excess moisture can cause even cause the wood of the frame itself to expand and soften, allowing screws to loosen or the wire/ hardware to rust. Excess moisture can be a problem year round in bathrooms and kitchen areas. If you notice your frames flexing or feeling loose and wobbly, consider reinforcing or rewiring.
The best way to guard against humidity is to display your art in a climate controlled environment. Make sure there is space between your art and the glass, to stop humidity from causing sticking: that’s what mats are for! If your art is right up against the glass, consider taking it to a framer to add spacers or mats, so the glazing doesn’t stick to and damage the art. Seal the back of the artwork well with a good quality backing sheet: this will help to create a micro-climate in the frame and keep moisture outside where it belongs! You can also ask your framer about taping around the edges of the frame package, sealing the backing of the frame to the edge of the glass: this process is known by a number of different names including “Florida Wrap”. If the art is displayed in a beach house or other humid environment where the art won’t be seen all year round, storing it in plastic bins with silica gel packets or other desiccants during the off-season can reduce the likelihood of mildew growth and other moisture related issues.
The weather is nice, so you let the place air out- not thinking about what kinds of horrors will drift in and damage your artwork! Open air can allow a variety of undesirable things to settle on your pictures and paintings: pollen, dust, dirt, soot and smoke (from cigarettes, bonfires, barbecues, etc), and salt near the sea. Open windows also up the potential for six-legged intruders taking up residence in and around your frames and eating all that nice cellulose. These can all be guarded against with tight seals in the framing package, and using appropriate glazing. However, airborne pollutants can still cause damage to the frame itself, as well as causing damage to stretched canvases and unglazed pieces. Warped canvases can be re-stretched, and stretcher bars can be reinforced with bracing and framing: these precautions will keep your canvas looking great and can prevent further damage from happening. Keeping artwork (especially exposed art like textiles and canvas) away from open windows is the best course of action. Giving frames a gentle wipe-down with a clean cloth every once in a while can also help. Remember to take especially valuable artwork to a conservator to be cleaned properly.
Most of these issues can be avoided with some forethought, but that doesn’t help if the piece is already damaged! If you’ve had problems with any of these warm-weather issues, it’s a good idea to take your frames in for a tune up. Letting a framer clean and refit your frames can alleviate some of the damage done by what would otherwise be lovely weather. They can make sure you’ve got the right glass, the right backing, and a tight seal to protect your artwork all year round!
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