An African American blog of politics, culture, and social activism.
Larry Shutts of the Atlanta Art Conservation Center works on cleaning Hale Woodruff’s “Return to Africa” mural in preparation for its display at the High Museum, which begins a national tour of the late artist’s works.
I hope the last chapter was helpful for those of you wishing to sell your coveted piece of African American art. After you have determined the value, chosen a reliable dealer or auction house you can sell your work with confidence. Remember to keep detailed records if you plan to donate or bequeath the piece. One of the issues that cause the value of your artwork to rise or fall is the condition. We’ve mentioned that damaged art is generally less valuable than a piece in perfect condition. We will learn how to keep your artwork in prime shape.
As a 30 year professional picture framer, conservator and collector, I’ve seen artwork in every condition: mold, mildew, water and sunlight damage, insects, effects of aging, poor framing and neglect. Another one of my Golden Rules is, “If you are spending good money on fine art, don’t scrimp on the framing.” I have seen people purchase original artwork for 5 figures then try to frame it themselves or use ready made picture frames from a department store. Why? That would be like buying a Lexus and parking it under a tree on the street when you have a heated garage. Most of us don’t live in a museum so where and how we hang a piece in our homes can play a factor in the preservation of artwork even if you are just storing a piece for later sales. Each type of art has its own set of problems or concerns. Oil and acrylic painting are different than work created on paper, prints, photographs collectible posters or documents. We will address all of these concerns.
Water Damaged Mattes
Let’s start from the beginning. You have just purchased a piece of fine art from a gallery or artist. Like when you drive a new car off the lot the value drops, the same can happen when you buy art if you’re not cautious. The way art is damaged most often is by rolling. Never allow the gallery to roll your work in a tube. Whether storing, transporting or shipping, keeping the work as flat as possible is advisable. Shipping flat is sometimes more expensive, although it will be less damaging because rolling actually puts tiny creases or “zippers” in the paper. Unstretched canvases are even more susceptible to cracking or flaking destruction. This does present a dilemma when traveling and a purchased artwork has to be shipped. You need to weigh the extra cost to ship flat compared to rolling and the damage and devaluation that can be result. If you must, use the largest diameter tube possible and make sure there are gaps on the 2 ends as not to harm the edges of the artwork.
If you bought the piece for investment to sell later, store it flat, away from light, in between acid free cardboards. I’ve seen art stored between corrugated boards and even plywood resulting in the pattern or wood grain burned into the artwork. The room temperature is also important for storage or hanging. Ideally, a steady temperature between 65 and 75 degrees is best. Great fluctuations in temperature are more harmful to art on paper and canvas, as well as humidity over 70%. Damp moist air hastens the growth of mold and mildew. Water damage promotes mold growth much quicker. This means you should avoid hanging fine artwork over a fireplace or in a bathroom. Definitely shun rooms where people smoke or cook. Sometimes hanging art on an outside wall can cause ripples in work as the inside temp is much greater than the wall temp. Direct sunlight and fluorescent lighting will fade colors in artwork rapidly. It is also a good idea to invest in a pair of cotton gloves for handling your work as oils from the skin can leave fingerprints especially on photographs. Another common damage I see is mishandling of works on paper. I can’t count the number of times a client comes in with a valuable piece with a ding or dent in the surface from picking it up with one hand instead of two hands keeping the piece parallel to the surface. Remember! Be gentle when handling or cleaning your art, it is an investment. When in doubt, call a professional.
Repairing the Winan’s buckled photograph
Now it is time to frame your artwork. Picture framing is a trade that I discovered in high school while taking a commercial art course. I developed my expertise over the years in college and after graduating and landing a job with one of Philadelphia’s largest picture frame chains, I opened my own gallery/frame shop becoming a certified picture framer, CPF. I’ve created picture framing for 4 presidents, sports teams and players, entertainers, and many artists from Andrew Wyeth to Jeff Donaldson. To enhance your art, it must have framing. I have framed everything from a rusty tailpipe to slavery emancipation papers. Frames not only improve the look of your work but serve to protect and facilitate hanging of the work. I’ve heard many quotes about what type of frame is best for a certain piece of art. While there are general rules about framing, each piece is individual and has to live with the viewer. For every rule there is an exception like, “Don’t select a frame that matches the color in the picture.” Yet there are picture frames which are an extension of the picture that operate perfectly well. Style, color, size, period, material of the frame is as varied and diverse as people on the planet. As long as the frame is complimentary to the picture and does not over-power the art, it can hang in any décor. It need NOT match your furniture, rug, couch or drapes.
Protecting your fine art piece is the most important issue for the collector as this can affect the value of you art later on. These rules are meant to keep your work in pristine condition when framing for resale or your own enjoyment;
3-dimentional artwork, bronze, wooden, stone and resin sculptures are pretty durable. Make sure they are fastened to the pedestal securely. Wooden, African sculpture can split or crack as the wood dries and fade or darken if exposed to direct sunlight. Once again, consult a professional or the artist for cleaning of these pieces.
The most important way to protect your artwork is to have it insured. After your collection is appraised, have your rental or home owners’ insurance agent add the artwork to the policy. This will protect your art against most damage, theft, fire, water or vandalism. If you collection is over $100,000 you might need a special rider policy. Make sure artworks are insured enough to have them repaired or replaced.
Some clients brought me a painting they purchased in Mexico. It was about 50”X50” and rendered in very thick, impasto style paint. They saw it framed and decided to have the artist remove it from the stretcher and roll the piece for mailing, however, always ship or transport artwork as flat as possible. By the time I received the piece for framing, it was covered with cracks in the surface when unrolled. After restretching, the piece needed considerable restoration to fix the cracks. This was a dilemma for my clients because mailing a piece flat, that large, from Mexico to Michigan would have been very expensive and risk damage for oversize shipping. Luckily, they used a large tube to ship, my restoration was very good, and it was going to hang where one would not notice any repairs, although I did note the damage for their records.
Nelson Stevens’s Silkscreen
Case Study 2
A client recently bought a rare 1960s silk screen poster by AfriCOBRA artist Nelson Stevens. He bought it framed for a pretty high price. When we removed the piece, it was found to be permanently glued down to corrugated board which had yellowed the piece due to the acid in the cardboard. It also had some paper loss but the mounting has devalued it even more. We weighed the risk and cost of removing the cardboard verses the price paid and potential resale value and decided to just leave it alone at this time. The artist told us that the piece was rare with not more than 10 bearing these colors in existence and he’d sign the piece for us increasing the value.
Next time we deal with Authenticity: Is it real or fake?
George Bayard III