How and Why to Frame Artwork Archivally (Even if it Costs More)

The PADA November blog features an article contributed by Augen Gallery.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” -Leonardo da Vinci

Sometimes it seems a frame is like a vise around an artwork, forcing it into a finished state with shapes and colors and textures foreign to it. But then again, sometimes a great frame can undeniably add to an artwork’s impact. A great frame can offer positives like boundaries, protection, and enhancement; it can act as a decorative bridge to the environment the artwork lives in. And sometimes most importantly, it can protect the artwork’s impact and value for decades to come. Making the best framing choices starts with an overview of the broad range of framing materials and styles, herewith, some thoughts on frames and framing. Be sure to consult a PADA member gallery with any specific framing questions or requests you may have.

“The most important thing in art is the frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively – because, without this humble appliance, you can’t know where The Art stops and The Real World begins. You have to put a “box” around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?” – Frank Zappa

Protection may be the most important aspect of framing for prints and other works on paper. We often see damaged works when clients bring them in to be appraised, consigned or re-framed.  It’s sad to see how quickly sunlight, moisture or insects can damage artworks without adequate protection. Just like those old photo albums with acidic paper liners ruined our family photos, poor quality framing materials will take their toll on the artwork they surround. It’s just a matter of time.

“Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.” – G.K. Chesterton

As the price of art continues to move higher, with some things reaching stratospheric prices today, it is ever more important to consider the archival preservation of works using professional state-of-the-art framing. Galleries who specialize in works on paper encourage their clients to choose only 100% cotton rag mats, acid-free back boards and UV3 plexiglass or conservation clear glass at the very least.

“If I spit, they will take my spit and frame it as great art.”  – Pablo Picasso

Here is an example of how important archival framing can be:

In the 1970’s you could purchase Andy Warhol soup can prints for $200. Many people put poor quality framing materials on these works at a cost of about $200 per frame  at the time.  Had they used state-of-the-art archival materials, the framing would have cost about $350.  Today the poorly cared-for prints in the non-archival frames sell at auction for about $5000 to $7000. These prints usually have mat stains and burns and the red colors have faded to light pink. In contrast, the prints that were well framed have little noticeable defects and almost no color attenuation, and they usually auction for about $15,000 to $17,000, a $10,000 difference.  So spending an extra $150 on framing 35 years ago might have rendered a $10,000 return. Not every artist’s work has appreciated like Andy Warhol’s over the last few decades, but enough have that it should be a major consideration when deciding what materials to use for framing.

“Frame thy mind to mirth and merriment, which bars a thousand harms, and lengthens life”  – William Shakespeare

Last but not least (and this is not really about frames), a recommendation:

We’re thankful this month for the playful web series from Jim Kempner Fine ArtThe Madness of Art” – a new episode comes out every couple of  months. They skewer themselves and the art world – and they always make us laugh. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.


Filed under Augen Gallery, PADA Galleries, Resources for Buyers

3 responses to “How and Why to Frame Artwork Archivally (Even if it Costs More)

  1. A fantastic article. Thank you.

  2. Its the mats that do the most damage in my experience and the cost difference for acid free is minor compared to the cost of a framing job. Hanging it where it gets sun, nothing is going to survive that in the long run.

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