Framed art in a gallery

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How to take care of your art collection

Whether you have just bought your first piece of art or have been curating a collection for a while, you’ll recognise the importance of taking good care of it. Understanding what steps to take will not only help you preserve the monetary and historical value the piece might have – both now and going forward – but will also ensure that you and your loved ones can maximise your enjoyment of the collection for as long as possible.

Where to begin

It’s important to consider three key areas when it comes to taking care of your art and collectibles. Firstly, where you want to showcase the pieces and where you should store any items you can’t have on display. Secondly, what you should do if you want to clean any pieces in your collection. And lastly, some simple steps to take when it comes to insuring your high-value possessions.

Pick the right location

The first thing to think about when it comes to any piece you collect is where to put it.  

For paintings:

  • Don’t hang them in direct sunlight or under harsh indoor lighting. This will help you avoid colour bleaching or any intricate detailing fading. Also don’t hang art above a radiator or fireplace as heat, soot and convected dust can all cause lasting damage.
  • Do try to aim for a gap between your paintings and the wall to minimise accumulations of dirt and moisture behind them (a small block in the corners on the back of the frame should help with this) 

For vases and figurines:

  • Clumsiness can be costly, so look for a display cabinet or shelf out of the path of general house traffic, pets or small children. And make sure it’s strong enough to hold the weight of any heavy pieces.
  • Ideally, keep any intricate items within a display cabinet away from harsh light. And, as with any paintings, this will help protect it from discolouration and excessive dust. 

If you do have to store your art away for any length of time, it is best to do so in a warm and dry location. We wouldn’t advise using basements or lofts for long-term storage as both are susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity across the year and can leave your items exposed to potential damage. Wherever possible try to keep your items off the floor to avoid any absorption of moisture from the ground.

Keeping it clean

Here are some general rules of thumb to follow if the pieces in your collection are in need of some extra love and attention:

  • Clean off any dust on your paintings and figurines with a soft bristled brush (a small artist’s brush or make up brush will do). Try to avoid using feather or sheepskin dusters as the fibres can attach to the work.
  • Generally speaking, never use any chemical cleaning products, sprays or polishes to clean the pieces in your collection. However glass vases and items such as Swarovski crystal can be carefully cleaned with a glass cleaner and light cloth.
  • If you do have dirty figurines, then clean in warm soapy water, taking care to cover any air holes in the structure with masking tape. This will limit water seeping into the piece and causing long-term structural damage.
  • If you’re cleaning any items in warm water, place one or two bath towels in the sink before cleaning to protect against breakage if the piece is dropped.
  • If you notice any frame damage or flaking paint on your paintings, seek the advice of a qualified, professional conservator or framer.

Insuring your art collection

As a collector, you’ll know the value of getting the right insurance to safeguard your art and your investment. And as well as making sure you get the right type of cover for your high-value pieces, make sure you take the time to document the condition of your collection too. Photographs, notes, dimensions, the method of framing, the artist’s name and original bills of sale, are all things that will prove useful should you ever have to make a claim. And if you can, keep this documentation in a fireproof safe or in a safety deposit box away from your home in the event of a fire or natural disaster.  

All being well, following the tips and suggestions above should ensure that you will be well placed to enjoy and pass down your collection for generations to come.