Moving? Downsizing? Its a Good Time to Check Your Artwork!

My parents are moving across the country to the great Pacific Northwest, and downsizing while they’re at it. While going through their art, we discovered trouble was afoot.

In the Nicest of Homes, Time Abuses Artwork

Close up of painting that has been faded by UV raysAlthough much of my parents’ art was professionally framed years ago, we found mountings that had failed, frames that were nicked and scratched, and no UV protection on anything. Acid in the framing materials had degraded the images and we could see fading from light exposure. The damage had happened so slowly, over time, they hadn’t noticed the changes before.

Deciding What Art to Keep and What to Let Go

Since they are moving into a smaller house, our first step was to figure out which pieces would travel with my parents to their new home and which pieces would stay behind. If you’re an art lover, you know this wasn’t always easy. If you ever find yourself in this position, we suggest gathering all your artwork together and considering:

  • The condition of each piece: If a piece has deteriorated, can it be saved? Is it worth reframing if necessary?
  • The value of each piece: Is it worth money? Irreplaceable for sentimental reasons? Important for other reasons?
  • How much you still like each piece: Has it always been a favorite or was it a gift you never really cared for? Will you like it as much in your new home? Or will it seem out of place and bothersome?
  • The amount of space in your new home: Can you make a place for each piece? Or is it time to pass down some of the art you like, but don’t have room for?

Once you have pared down your collection, evaluate the art you are keeping for signs of needed repairs.

Older Art: To Reframe or Not to Reframe?

With so much else to consider during a move, your first thought is probably going to be, “Do we really need to go to the expense and hassle of reframing?” I know that based on the most common questions I hear about older art:

“Can we reuse the materials — mats, glass, etc?” Honestly, if you’re serious about preserving your artwork, the answer is no. Until recently, framing materials weren’t up to the job of protecting art from light or acid, so anything framed just 20 years ago or more is being destroyed by the frame that was intended to protect it. Modern materials are acid free and we have now have glass that will filter 99% of UV rays.

“It’s been framed this way for 40 years and it looks fine, why not leave it alone?” I can almost guarantee your older art is not fine. The framing materials are damaging it and the image has likely faded significantly. However, you won’t be able to see the damage–or know what to do about it–until you take the art out of it’s frame.

Let’s Take a Hard Look at Mom’s Art

One piece in my parents’ collection had been in the basement for 30 or more years, but Mom really liked it and wanted to keep it. The frame and mats still looked pretty good and the glass, while a bit dirty, was in good condition. The image, also one of my favorites, looked fine until we took it out of the frame.

Unframed artwork. At the edges, one can see the paint colors have faded significantly.

Suddenly, I understood why it had a dark teal linen accent mat! The blues had faded significantly — some almost to white. Interestingly, the yellows didn’t seem to have faded as much, but overall, there was a lot of UV damage.

Bringing new life to this piece required all new materials, not just to protect the image, but to complement the piece in its current condition. I’m sure the old mat looked great before the art faded, but it looked strange next to the image as it is now.

Because this was painted in the 1960’s, we decided to be true to its heritage and picked a really cool mid-century inspired frame and fillet, paired with tatami silk mat the complements the main color in the painting.

The artwork with new wooden frame and gray blue matting.

Bring Your Older Art to Village Frame & Gallery Before Your Move

If you are moving or downsizing and sorting through your artwork, now is the time to evaluate its condition. We can help! Call us whenever you need to:

  • Check for framing materials that might be damaging your art
  • Update the look of your favorite pieces from the last century
  • Replace glass that broke during your move

Your best bet is to drop off your artwork right before your move so it’s safe during the move and ready to be hung when your new home is in order. We’re open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm, at 7808 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR 97219.

Village Frame & Gallery, 7808 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR 97219 ● (503) 245-8001
Open Tuesday - Friday, 10am - 5pm, and Saturday 10am - 4pm, or by appointment.