Hide from the light or frame it right? How to take proper care of your artwork.

Metal Picture Frame Standard S04 Frosted Gold Metal Picture Frame Standard S01 Silver Metal Picture Frame Techline T21 Matte Black

People who live in a high-altitude, dry climate, like the Southwest, may be concerned about the care and preservation of their precious artwork.  However, “in this climate, artwork is better off than in more humid places,” said Michael Vigil, artist and owner of Gallery Elena. “It is a very desirable climate because we don’t get the mold that is so common in the back east, for example. That’s why many artists came here in the first place.”

Still, some precautions should be taken to preserve the artwork and prevent damage. Since sunlight is the main cause of discoloration and fading it is advisable to use ultraviolet-filtering glasses on prints and especially on textiles, and never hang a piece on a wall directly opposite a window.

“Some of the newer inkjet prints are pretty stable,” said Robbie Scott, owner of Final Touch Framing, “but I still wouldn’t hang them in direct sunlight. All textiles and watercolors should have ultraviolet glasses on them to avoid fading.”

Excessive moisture can be as bad as too much sunlight. “Though it tends not to be a problem here in the dessert, one needs to be careful and not hang a valuable piece of art in a damp place,” said Scott. “Condensation can stain or permanently discolor the artwork.”

A good frame is important—it both enhances and protects the work of art. But when framing is done using the wrong materials, it could cause harm to the piece, rather than shield it. “If you have a painting, a textile or any kind of artwork that have been framed in the last twenty years, make sure that the materials used in the mats, backing, adhesives and hinges are acid-free,” said Scott.

Nowadays most of them are acid-free but people used to use masking tape (or worse, duct tape) to affix artwork to the backing or frame. In that case, they should be replaced as soon as possible to help prevent further deterioration. Masking tape leaves a residue and it is practically impossible to get it off the artwork.

Oil paintings are framed without glass, but should also be kept away from excessive smoke and direct sunlight.

“Special attention needs to be paid to watercolors,” said Vigil. Its very nature makes them fragile and more susceptible to damage than other mediums. It is recommended to frame them because dust and stains, once settled, are very difficult to remove without damaging the artwork. Using ultra violet-filtering glass is a must for them.

Textiles, particularly when they are old, wools and silks should be dry-cleaned before they are framed. Dry cleaning will kill moths and their larvae, which are natural enemies of wool. “Use pesticides to keep your home free of insects, but never spray the surface of the artwork,” said Scott.

Navajo textiles should be kept away not only from direct sunlight but also from bright artificial lights to avoid bleaching of the dyed wool yarns. Ultra violet filtering glasses help protect them, but if you have them hanging, use a metal or wooden dowel rod, don’t nail them to the wall! Inspect the back of the rug often, because moths use the side against the wall to lay their eggs.

It is better not to place textiles near the kitchen; the natural fibers tend to absorb odors and even grease. Washing isn’t recommended, it is safer to vacuum clean them. “They can be dry-cleaned, but testing should be done before,” said Scott.

It is never a good idea to hang oil paintings and anything that doesn’t have a glass over a fireplace because the heat coming from the chimney and the walls, and the changes from hot to cold, can make the artwork crack. The soot from the fireplace will also damage it. If you absolutely want to hang that painting above the fireplace, mount it to the wall and leave a couple of inches of “air space” between the piece and the wall.

In frames, the glass shouldn’t touch directly any original artwork because the photo or painting may stick to the back of the glazing, or moisture can get inside and grow mold. Contact between the artwork and the glass can be avoided using spacers or mats.

“Make sure that the backing paper is intact so that no bugs can get inside and cause trouble,” said Scott. Textiles and wools ought to be inspected periodically too, for the same reason. Enjoy your artwork and prevent bugs and critters from doing the same.

Finally, Caring for Your Art: A Guide for Artists, Collectors, Galleries and Art Institutions, by Jill Snyder and Joseph Montague, is a great reference book for any artist or art collector. It contains valuable information about protecting, transporting and displaying artwork.



Final Touch Framing is located at 800 Bond Dr # B
(575) 758-4360

Gallery Elena is located at 111 Morada Lane
(575) 758-9094


From Gallery Elena, Taos, NM


About dovalpage

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Taos, New Mexico. She has a Ph.D. in Spanish literature and teaches at UNM Taos. She also freelances for Taos News, Profile, Hispanic Executive and other publications. A bilingual author, she has published eight novels, six in Spanish and two in English, two collections of short stories in Spanish and one in English. Her English-language novels are A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004) and Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010). Her collection of short stories The Astral Plane, Stories of Cuba, the Southwest and Beyond was published by the University of New Orleans Press in 2012. In her native Spanish she has authored the novels Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain), El difunto Fidel (The late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, that won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009), Posesas de La Habana (Haunted Ladies of Havana, PurePlay Press, 2004), La Regenta en La Habana (Edebe Group, Spain, 2012,) Orfeo en el Caribe(Atmósfera Literaria, Spain, 2013) and El retorno de la expatriada (The expat’s return, Egales, Spain, 2014). Her short novel Las Muertas de la West Mesa (The West Mesa Murders, based on a real event) is currently being published in serialized format by Taos News.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.