In developing countries like The Bahamas, where art often serves as a method of historical documentation, it’s important that island art collectors know how to care for their investments.
Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty agent Vanessa Pritchard-Ansell recently interviewed Harvard-educated Artist and Conservator, Katrina Vanderlip about conserving art in an island home. Discover her findings and explore properties currently represented by the Sotheby’s International Realty® brand below.
Are there any hassle-free, at-home projects that art-collectors can do to preserve their pieces?
Take the time to really look at the surface of your artwork to notice any changes such as mold growing or loose, flaking paint.
Check behind your artwork to see that there is no mold growing or signs of termites on the frames or stretchers. Do not just pull the painting away from the wall, take it down and have a good look. Check to see that the canvas is tight and not detaching on the sides because of rusty nails.
Here are three at-home projects any art-collector can do:
- How to remove mold…
It’s recommended to have a professional handle mold on the surface of the painting, but the back is an easy at-home clean. Using a spray bottle, fill it with 70% rubbing alcohol in water and lightly spray the back of the canvas without saturating. Then, take a 2-inch painter’s brush and brush the mold off. Ideally, you want to remove the mold completely so spores won’t be “reactivated” on another humid day.
- How to clean the surface…
I do not recommend letting any one but a trained art conservator clean your paintings, but, should you have a painting that is “solid” i.e. varnished with no flaking paint, you can dust first using a feather duster and then use a cotton swab moist with saliva. There are natural enzymes in saliva that are marvelous for removing grime.
- How to prevent fading…
The strong island sun has plenty of power so be sure to not place your artwork in direct sunlight. If it’s an oil painting it will not fade, but artwork on paper is very fragile and should be protected by ultraviolet blocking glass or Plexiglas. You can also have your windows specially coated to block ultraviolet rays.
What are some preventative actions that you recommend art collectors take in their home?
Keep the area where the artwork is displayed well-ventilated to help prevent mold from forming. If you’re not one for air conditioning then it’s recommended to put spacers on the back of your frame to allow air circulation between the artwork and the wall. It is also helpful to have your home fumigated periodically.
Which leads me to ask, do you recommend artwork be covered in the event a home needs to be professionally fumigated?
Yes, you don’t want the spray to come into direct contact with the painting. Nor do you want to create an airtight seal as there is a reason you are having your home fumigated.
Are there additional ways collectors can prevent mold from growing on their painting(s)?
Varnish is an excellent protection on a paint surface. Classic oil paintings withstand the test of time far better than contemporary art. Artists once let their paintings dry then applied a protective varnish layer the day of the “vernissage.”
For tropical climate living, a protective varnish is recommended. Of course, some art is intended to have a matte finish and it’s best to consult the artist if planning to hang art in a tropical locale. The use of ceiling fans helps air circulate which is only beneficial to keeping artwork healthy.
How do you recommend a collector search for a local art restorer?
Your local museum is your best resource as they will likely have a recommended list of framers and art conservators.
Do you have any conservation tips for artists?
Yes! Use oil paint rather than acrylic paints, varnish your paintings preferably with “retouching” varnish that can be removed and replaced, if necessary, and stretch your canvas on stretchers using rust proof tacks or staples.
If you create works of art on paper, it is vital that you have them framed with UV protection and acid-free mat boards.
Should paintings be mounted on stretchers or strainers?
A painting on canvas has to be kept tight. When the canvas shrinks and stretches due to changes in humidity, the paint layer can start to crack and will eventually flake off.
Paintings should be on stretchers, not strainers. Stretchers have corners that can be spread apart to keep the canvas tight and the paint surface flat. If you have an important painting on a strainer, have it re-stretched on a stretcher.