Just some thoughts about Collecting Art

I was tossing around thoughts about art collection. I’ve been working with a local customer to bring his collection more to his taste, which included hanging work that had been sitting in a closet, recommending new acquisitions to fit the new “theme”, moving work around the various rooms and doing repairs and re-framing on work that had been damaged one way or another.  It made me aware that some who buy the art they love (the right thing to do, by the way) may have no idea how to take care of it, how to light it and how to find the perfect spot in which to hang it.  So, that brings me to this post.  Let’s tackle them one at a time.

Imagine you’re browsing a gallery, or an art show, or even better, an artist’s studio, and you see something that just grabs you.  You force yourself to look around, keenly aware that the artist or gallery director has caught your gazing and is eager to help you make a purchase.   Maybe you even leave, but once you’re home you find yourself scouring your walls, looking for an available space and calculating if the piece you can’t get out of your head, would fit.  Are the colors right?  Does the style work?  Do I need to call an interior decorator?

As an artist myself, gallery owner past and online gallery owner present, I would say first..if you love it, don’t let it go.  Art is subjective and when you find something you can’t take your eyes off of, I would suggest you find a way to buy it.  Most any artist or gallery owner will work with you take that baby home.  There is little more motivating to an artist than seeing his or her work go out the door with a happy customer.

So, now you have it ….what next?  Look around and don’t match it to the furniture.  Match it to what you want to look at.  Personally, my favorite piece is hanging on the wall above my television.  Right where I can gaze at it when I want to, and I do, often.  It is soothing to me. I don’t care if the wall behind is red and the dominant colors in it are yellow.  In fact, it works very well.  Its funny how that happens.  Put the art where you can smile at it, and I’m convinced, it will smile back at you.  It’s an energy thing.  So now it’s on the wall, you look around and say, ” It was so much brighter in the gallery”. Likely so, It’s all in the lighting.  Some stores sell “Painting lights” that hang above the piece.  They can be okay, but it’s not ideal.  First, lighting it from above lights the top 1/3 or less, plus the design of the frame may cast a shadow.  Not to mention how to deal the cord that now hangs behind the painting and dangles below it and how do you deal with that?  The better way is via the use of a short track or single can unit that will allow you direct light from in front of the work, from the ceiling, angled down and toward the center of the work.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, but the better it’s lit, the more it will stand out, unless the room it is in is already bright and light.

Finaly, there are the care issues.  Today, many works on canvas are not framed, and that’s ok if they are “gallery wrap”, which means the canvas wraps around a stretcher that is at least 1 1/2 inches deep, and those edges are painted. Ideally, the painting goes around all edges of the canvas.  Thinner canvases should be framed, and all works on paper, such as watercolor or pastel should be framed and behind glass or acrylic.  The new acrylic is in some ways preferable, as it is so much lighter, and large works puts way less stress on the wire and the hook it’s hanging on.  However, know the difference.  Never use glass cleaner, like Windex on acrylic…it will scratch it.  Instead opt for an acrylic or plastic cleaner which can be purchased at most any retailer, even Walmart.  Next, don’t hang a painting on or near the chimney of a fireplace.  Heat and soot rise…and you’ll soon find clouding on the glass, or worse, ash on the canvas.  Also be careful with excess moisture.  Excess moisture, such as in a bathroom, can get behind glass which is dangerous for pastel or watercolor, though both are permanent pigments.  Most watercolor today is as durable as acrylic, but there can be damage depending on the paper used and the amount of moisture it is exposed to.  Traditional papers, such as Arches Watercolor Paper are very durable and light fast, but too much water can still make a mess.  Best practice says don’t hang watercolor in the bathroom.  Further, contemporary papers that are fun to paint on, such as Yupo paper must not be exposed to moisture.  The painting can literally wash away!  If you buy a watercolor or pastel unframed, take it to a frame shop for proper preservation and don’t simply pick up a ready made frame/glass kit at Hobby Lobby.  Suitable for a poster, yes, but not an original work on paper.

Once your new treasure is safely on the wall, you will want to occasionally clean the glass or acrylic.  If it is an unframed oil or acrylic look at it closely to ensure dust is not collecting on any “textured” areas.  They can be gently wiped with a soft brush.  If ash is present, take it to your frame shop for cleaning.

The best idea is to ask when you’re buying…How do I take care of this?  Anyone who knows the business of art, should be easily able to tell you.  I used to sell some wood sculpture that came with a 10 page manual for care and cleaning.  The work artists create comes straight from the core of their being.  We love to send it to happy homes, and we love even more, that those customers love it for the rest of their life.  I hope this is helpful. Feel free to ask questions.