Here are a collection of frequently asked questions about art, conservation and the advice we give in emergencies.
Choosing the correct packing materials for art storage is essential for maintaining an artwork’s good condition, especially if their contact is direct and prolonged. In most cases, a painting can be safely stored with unbuffered, neutral pH materials. However, this does not apply to all artworks, and acid-free materials will require periodic replacement. Storage materials should always be archival-quality.
- Prolonged or direct contact with inappropriate packing materials, like cardboard or non-archival paper, accelerates degradation
- Bubblewrap in direct contact with a paint surface, which can leave a permanent imprint.
- Glassine in direct contact with a paint surface, which can become adhered
- Failing to allow paint layers (especially oil paint) to effectively dry before moving them into storage or frames can lead to significant paint damage
- Extreme or fluctuating environmental conditions
- Inappropriate storage placement, such as stacking paintings
- A lack of protection from dust and debris in the environment
- Tightly rolling canvas paintings on narrow tubes
- Folding canvas paintings
Artwork should be transported by a professional art handling company and kept in an environment with regulated air condition and relative humidity at all times. At ArtCare Conservation, we are able to provide you with a list of trusted art handlers. If you choose to personally transport your artwork, we can provide our recommendations on how to do so most safely.
Rolling a canvas painting can be an ideal solution for art transportation or storage, especially for large format paintings. While there are multiple factors to consider before rolling a painting, most important is not to roll a painting on a narrow tube, as this can cause major permanent damage. We highly recommend that canvas rolling be performed by professionals.
If your painting has been exposed to fire, it has likely suffered from soot deposits that can become imbedded in the materials. Required conservation treatment can range from surface cleaning to the stabilization and reintegration of major damage, depending on the painting’s degree of exposure.
Contact a paintings conservator immediately, and your insurance agency, if applicable. The artworks should be removed from the compromised environment by professionals as soon as possible. Depending on the level of exposure, your paintings could require immediate stabilization treatment.
If your painting is suffering from an insect infestation, it will likely require immediate treatment. Certain insects, such as termites, can be highly destructive to an artwork over time. In such instances, paintings are typically stored in anoxic chambers (or similar environments) to safely eliminate pests. Other insects, such as spiders, are of minor concern and may simply indicate a need for dry cleaning.
Active termite infestations are often associated with frass (visually similar to wood dust), shiny iridescent wings, and small, new holes in wood. Small larvae may also be visible. If you identify any of these signs, contact a conservator immediately to examine your artwork.
Surface cleaning typically refers to the aqueous cleaning of an artwork’s surface, but can also refer to dry cleaning. A conservator will perform a series of tests to identify what solution will most effectively remove the targetted layer, whether it be grime or accretions, and is safest for the paint layers. Solutions are typically composed of distilled water with surfactants, chelators, active enzymes, buffers, or gelling agents, and their various combinations.
Mold and moisture damage occur in wet or humid environments. Mold often appears as widespread or concentrated areas of haziness, visible on the artwork’s surface, its frame, or on the reverse. Moisture damage can appear as staining, paint lifting and craquelure, the relaxation of canvas tension, or the formation of surface undulations. The identification of mold or moisture damage requires examination by a conservator.
We recommend that paintings be examined every twelve to sixteen months. Scheduling an annual inspection by conservation professionals is ideal for ensuring your collection’s best ongoing condition.
Cyclical maintenance involves routine condition inspections and, if necessary, dry cleaning. Routine inspections are an effective means of identifying new condition problems, allowing treatment to occur before potential condition problems become severe.
Paintings should be monitored and kept in a stable environment with controlled temperature and relative humidity. Issues affecting an artwork often correlate with fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. Because environmental conditions must be tailored to reflect both the material types and the environment in which they reside, we recommend a range of 45-55% relative humidity with an annual range of no less than 40% and no more than 60%, and a temperature range of 65-77º Fahrenheit.
Take photographs and make notes to record the damage that has occurred, then call your insurance agency. Next, call us to begin the process of conserving your artworks.
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On the contrary, conservation can maintain or increase the value of your artwork, when done correctly. When conservation treatment is performed carefully, prioritizing minimal intervention, reversibility, and the artist’s intent and original materials, this best ensures the longevity of your artwork. After conservation, the value of artworks can be reinstated, having previously decreased in value due to the damage incurred. As mentioned, we defer to appraisers for the artworks market value.
The time required to complete conservation treatment varies considerably based on the scale and complexity of work. Treatment turnaround can range from a few days to a few months. The typical turnaround for a standard project is approximately one to two months.
The conservator’s intention is to preserve the integrity of the artwork, meaning that retouching is restricted to the areas of loss. Where damage has not resulted in defined loss, but has abraded or otherwise disturbed the paint surface, minimal retouching can be necessary to visually reintegrate these areas into the composition.
Yes. Our conservators use reversible materials and methods in their conservation treatments. Only in extreme cases, alongside thorough communication with our client, would non-reversible methods be considered.
Cost of conservation varies dramatically according to the size of artwork, complexity of damage, and level of degradation. We do not price based on the value of artwork. Please call for cost estimates.
We do not perform appraisals, as this would be a conflict of professional interests. We can, however, put you in touch with appraisers whom we know and trust.
The journey to becoming a conservator varies, but often requires several years of pre-program work and a post-secondary degree in art conservation from an accredited institution. Once these requirements have been met, one may begin their professional training.