This information pertains to all works of art, although certain mediums require additional care. Materials used for digital printmaking and traditional (silver) photography are independently tested by Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc., considered the authority on testing image permanence. The approximate life expectancy of photographs, assuming conditions are controlled (see below), is as follows: giclée prints, 110-125 years; silver prints, 100 years. For a detailed explanation of image permanence, test conditions employed, and test results, see www.wilhelm-research.com.
Transit and the environment remain the two biggest risks to works of art. Carefully consider how to ship artwork and where to display it. Avoid hanging art in direct sunlight. Shut the shades on your windows when you are away. Keep the temperature at 68 to 72 degrees, and the humidity at 50 percent. Excessive dampness, dryness, or heat, and fluctuations in relative humidity and temperature will have a detrimental impact on artwork. Don't skimp when packing and shipping a work—and expect and insist that the same standards be maintained wherever you are shipping your art.
Don't wait for something to happen before updating and organizing records on artwork for insurance purposes. If you hang a painting in direct sunlight and it fades, most insurance policies won't cover it. If the work itself is to be handled, use linen gloves when possible. For works on paper support the long sides of the sheet with both hands and, if possible, protect the area to be touched with folded tissue paper. Ink jet prints are water miscible from both sides so do not apply materials containing water to either side of the print.
When framing, only ragboard and other high quality acid free materials should come in contact with works of art. Where a composition is in no danger of flaking, acrylic sheeting, such as Plexiglas or Lucite, with an ultraviolet absorber (UF3) is preferable to glass. This will protect the art against photochemical or light damage and avoid physical damage in the event of the glass shattering. Never put labels directly on the back of artwork as some glues will eat away at the surface over time.
Art evokes tremendous emotion in the people who own it, sell it, and protect it. These are important, valuable parts of our history, and should be treated as such.
For more information, read
Close Those Drapes
by Michelle Falkenstein, in
November 2000; and The Care and Handling of Art Objects
by Marjorie Shelley.