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The Proper Care of an Art Collection

You don't have to have an Art degree to know what you like. All it takes to become a collector is to pick what most moves you. Caring for an art collection, on the other hand, requires a little bit of know how. Without it, you run the risk of damaging a fine investment. To prevent this from happening, here are some tips on the proper care of an art collection.

Proper care for art collections.

Watch Your Environment

Some works of art are more delicate than others, but in order to maintain their integrity and to preserve them for years and decades to come, you should take certain preventive measures. One good practice is to keep your art collection out of extreme temperatures that may cause canvases to go slack or become overly taut, or brittle paint to crack and curl. AIC recommends artworks are kept in environments with no less than 40 percent humidity and no greater than 60 percent. The ideal temperature for hanging or storing art is anywhere between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Never hang an expensive piece of art above or near a fireplace, and be sure to keep your paintings out of direct sunlight. This will prevent them from fading.

Proper Framing and Hanging

Anytime you hang a work of art, the proper type of hanger should be used. When in doubt, consult with the art gallery you purchased the art from, or contact a professional art hanging service. Prior to hanging, it's important to choose the appropriate type of frame. Archival framing places the artwork between protective layers that will better ensure its safety and longevity. When deciding between glass and Plexiglass, always remember that while glass is far more fragile, it's also easier to clean. For extremely valuable works of art, Plexiglass is recommended to more securely preserve the work.


Once you've got a prized piece of art hung in the right environment—out of the way of potentially damaging sunlight and in a temperature that won't degrade it—it's important to perform periodic maintenance. The good news is, all this usually requires is a bit of dusting. The best kinds of dusters to use are soft bristle brushes that won't scratch the paint. As you're dusting, also take the time to look over the art for flaking or loose bits of paint. Never touch the surface of a painting directly, as unintentional damage is easy to cause through natural skin oils.

Storing Your Artwork

The time may come when you need to remove art pieces from your wall and put them in storage. Perhaps you're moving, or simply re-painting your interior walls or steam cleaning your carpets. Or maybe you've just run out of wall space. Whatever the reason, the storage of artwork should be approached in a careful manner that will keep it safe from damage or degradation. Stay away from attics, basements, garages, or anyplace else where excessive dryness or moisture may be present. Once you've found an acceptable environment with a consistent temperature—like a closet in your home or a climate controlled storage facility—use acid free paper to keep the paintings separate. Another good idea is to place a stiff board between your paintings to protect the image from coming into contact with any surface that can scratch it. Keep all artwork at least three inches from the floor.

Traveling with Artwork

Few people travel with their art collections in tow unless they're moving. Whether that move takes you ten miles down the road or half a world away, proper procedures should always be followed to ensure no damage comes to your collection while in transit. Just as you can hire a moving company to pack and ship your clothes and furniture, there are professional art handling services that specialize in the safe packaging and shipping of art. When it comes to expensive and irreplaceable belongings it's often smart to go the extra mile and hire a professional. If you're located in a big city, get in touch with an art transportation company with plenty of experience. Regardless of the art handling service's record, having insurance may help protect your investment during the move. A good source of information for proper shipping procedures will be the art gallery itself.

Insure Your Investment

As an art collector, it's important that you obtain the proper kind of insurance to safeguard your investment. While many homeowners policies cover artwork, certain works of high value may have to be listed separately. To cover all bases, talk to your insurance agent about your options and always notify them when you acquire more art. Regardless of the type of insurance policy you choose, document the condition of your artwork by taking photographs and notes on its condition and appearance. Add as many additional details as possible to your documentation, including the dimensions of the artwork, the method of framing used, the name of the artist, the title of the piece, and the original bill of sale. Keep all documentation in a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box away from your home in the event of fire or natural disaster.

Being an art collector is a lifelong commitment. Follow the suggestions above and consult a professional anytime you have additional questions to help ensure you'll be able to pass down your esteemed collection to future generations.

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