2023 was a tough year for the art world. In fact, the events that transpired in 2022 were enough to make any art aficionado mirror Munch’s The Scream.

When activist groups demanded action on the climate crisis, various delicate paintings — including Van Gough’s Sunflowers, Grainstacks by Claude Monet, and Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup I — were pelted with glue, mashed potato, and tomato soup, to the dismay of gallery directors and public alike.

Thankfully, to the relief of art lovers the world over, the iconic artworks remained safe behind glass. Despite the low probability of climate activists gluing themselves to your personal effects, the protests raised an intriguing question: how do you protect your art from damage?

In this article, we’ll discuss the three best practices for protecting your pictures and artwork. Let’s dive in.

  1. Opt for professional framing

Picture framing offers unquestionable aesthetic advantages to your artwork. However, one of the most important benefits of framing is how it can protect the art within. In fact, it can be more profitable to sell framed artwork, as opposed to unframed pictures, owing to the protection framing offers.

Untreated pictures are particularly vulnerable to yellowing, fading, degradation, or damage, caused by the main antagonists of artwork — sunlight, heat, dampness, insects, airborne pollutants, and physical wear and tear. Picture framing acts as a protective display case around your artwork and can help to keep these all-too-common culture-killers at bay.

However, there are several challenges that can arise when framing artwork at home, and if you don’t do it well, you could end up damaging the artwork beyond repair. Poor mounting, for example, can cause your artwork to slip in and out of the frame, gather dust and dirt, and generally look unsightly.

If your pictures and artworks are especially valuable (sentimental or otherwise), it’s best to have a professional help you out. London-based company Soho Frames, for example, uses “only the most durable and premium materials, from the woods and mounts to the glass, guaranteeing the highest-quality framing service.”

  1. Limit sunlight exposure

Although framing can protect your artwork from considerable wear and damage, even UV-protective glass can only do so much against the easily forgotten enemy: sunlight.

Most paintings can tolerate direct sunlight as long as they are framed. In contrast, some artworks, such as oil paintings, are particularly vulnerable and should be protected from harsh midday light — kryptonite to paper and pigment. Although it may be difficult, ensuring your artwork avoids direct contact with sunshine and harmful UV rays will have a significant influence on its preservation.

An alternative solution is to rotate where you hang your artwork throughout the year, as different rooms in our homes receive varying levels of natural light.

This is not only a practical way to safeguard your artwork, but it can also add a welcome dose of variety to your home’s appearance — especially if one (or more) of your pieces acts as a focal point in your interior design.
  1. Clean with caution

As time passes, your treasured prints, pictures, and artworks may lose their luster with the build-up of surface dust, dirt, or residue. While most works can tolerate a little dusting with a soft, dry cloth, each piece will have its own characteristics and unique set of cleaning rules.

Drawings, photographs, or prints framed behind glass can normally be cleaned in the same way you would a mirror or window, using a microfibre cloth and a 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar, or a shop-bought spray cleaner.

However, be sure both sides of the glass are dry before re-inserting it into the frame to prevent water damage to your artwork or prints.

To err on the side of caution, art should ideally be cleaned by a professional, Rise Art explains:

“No matter the lifespan, value or size of your painting, it’s never worth compromising and potentially ruining it if you don’t know what you’re doing.” Even the most careful efforts to clean a painting by someone who isn’t equipped to do it might cause irreparable harm to your artwork.

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