Condition is a state of preservation of a work of art, that includes damages caused by a variety of factors. Due to their fragility, prints and other works on paper are particularly prone to damages. Sunlight, dust, humidity… are just some of the elements that can significantly impair paper and color pigments. In this blog post, we’ll talk about the damages that can appear on your art prints, how to prevent them, and how they influence the price of the art.
Image via Lavinia's Framing
Exposure to natural UV light can drastically damage the art piece. If artwork is exposed to strong light over long periods of time, the colors will fade, making them less vivid then on the brand new piece. The paper can also change color and structure to become brittle and inflexible.
How to Avoid Light Damage?
For starters, keep your art away from direct sunlight. Placing art opposite of a window might seem like a good idea, but unless your windows are coated with a protective UV film, it’s better to find a darker corner for your piece. Also, make sure to invest in a good frame with UV protective Plexiglas instead of a regular glass.
When coming into contact with water, prints develop bumps and ruffles and the color on the artwork changes tones. If you see a lighter area on the piece with wavy edges, they are probably made either by spilling water on the print of keeping the piece in the area with high humidity (for example, a basement, bathroom or a kitchen). But humidity affects the value of the piece in other ways as well.
Exposure to humidity causes mold growth and can attract insects. Mold causes the work to change color by living black, brown, blue, yellow or white discolorations. Bugs flourish in damp and moist environments and can also drastically contribute to the deterioration of the piece. They can eat the paper or the mat, or even the paint itself. It is known that silverfish, for example, eats the pastel away from the surface of the artwork, giving it a scrappy appearance. Also, bug excrete can cause a permanent change of colors and leave brown or white particulates on the piece.
How to Prevent Water Staining?
Keep your art in a dry place and monitor the levels of humidity (it should remain under 55%).Avoid hanging prints in the proximity of heating sources, and in the humid areas of the house such as the kitchen or the bathroom. Ceramic works or sculptures are better choices for these parts of your living space. Ensure regular flow of air around the artwork and buy dehumidifiers. To easily keep track of your humidity levels invest in a hygrometer, and make sure to inspect the artwork every once in a while for bugs and bug excretes.
Image via Rochester Institute of Technology
Soiling and Dirt
Sometimes due to inadequate storage and handling, you will see damages on the artwork caused by soiling and dirt. Dirt and dust in the air can contaminate the artwork and even have an abrasive effect. Even natural oils from your hands can cause damage and leave fingerprints on the artwork.
How to Avoid Staining and Dirt?
Keep your art in a clean environment. The dust from the air will eventually reach the artwork. Additionally, you can use air filters and air purifiers to remove some of the dust in the air. If dust does gather on your print, use a simple house brush, to clean the dust away from the surface. You’ll manage to avoid leaving fingerprint marks if you use cotton gloves instead of touching the artwork directly with your hands.
Creases, Bumps, Buckling and Tears
Improper storage and handling can lead to a variety of physical damage to the artwork. When prints are bent or rolled in an improper way, creases appear on the surface. Buckling causes the surface to appear wavy instead of flat, bumps make the sharp edges rounded, while tears appear as small splits on the piece.
What to Do?
The physical damages on prints can be prevented by hiring a professional framer to frame the art properly. If you are keeping your art in storage invest in acid and lignin-free mats, folders and solander boxes. Solander boxes and other acid-free storage equipment should keep your art safe from all types of damages.
Woman Bathing, Mary Cassatt, print via Oliver Brothers (before and after restoration)
Repair and Restoration
New prints coming out of the artist’s studio are in mint condition, while older prints are expected to have some damage on them. Certain damages (like yellowing of the paper) are a natural result of aging and shouldn’t affect the price of a print. On the other hand, major damages (like severe creasing, soiling, tearing, fading) will significantly lower the print’s value. If your artwork does have some imperfections on it, you’ll be happy to know that a lot of the damage can be repaired by a professional restorer. However, keep in mind that restoration can also reduce the price of the piece.
Accessing a print’s condition can be complicated, which is why we suggest hiring an expert for the job. A specialist can issue you a condition report detailing all the damage and restoration work done to the piece. Once you discover the condition of the artwork and how much restoration it may need, you can adjust the budget for the piece accordingly.