STEWARDSHIP/FRAMING ART: How can I get art framed (or put on a pedestal) and installed so it looks great, and stays safe for my lifetime and future generations?

Why is framing so expensive? Why can’t I buy frames at Target?

The issue is acid. Most frames available pre-made at discount stores use materials that are not archival, meaning that the materials have acid in them which will leach into your art and destroy it. You want to protect and preserve the value of your art investment, for your own pleasure and for future generations. Therefore, you want to find a framer who does archival work with high-quality acid-free materials. Likewise, a good framer will offer you the option of glass or Plexiglas that blocks out some ultraviolet rays that can harm art. When you are having a work framed, get framer referrals from knowledgeable people. Framing costs can vary widely for similar quality work.

The unthinkable happened: it’s damaged. How do I get art restored?

If the artist is alive, check with someone who knows the artist well, such as a dealer, to be sure the artist is a good source for the repair. The artist Joseph Cornell was known to take in work for repair and then return to the collector a completely different work of lesser quality. This caused problems.

Before asking the artist, get an estimate from a highly recommended restorer about the approximate cost of the repair. Then, ask the artist. Be prepared for an emotional response: this work was created with love, and the artist may have strong feelings about the damage done. Be ready to pay the artist a fair amount to fix the work. Determine that amount with the artist after the artist has inspected the damage, but before you have committed to having the artist repair it. This can be a delicate process.

Or …

If the artist is not alive or is not a good choice to make the repair:

It depends on what type of art has been hurt. Some people only restore works on paper, some only restore ceramics. Often, people who restore paintings specialize in a certain kind or period of painting. Get repair estimates from well-recommended restorers. In this case, the web is NOT a good place to research this. You will get much higher-quality data asking people in person or by phone than if you search the web. Again, call the gallery who represents the artist (see the Art in America annual guide to artists and dealers at your local library) and ask them for recommendations. Like any kind of work, get personal references from people you trust. Seek out references from top museum curators. Research who the experts are, call them and ask directly. As of this writing time, the web is the Wild West. Anyone can post or claim anything, and there is no Consumer Reports data for art-related sites. This is the art world: so a site may look gorgeous and professional, but it may just be window dressing. Don’t trust looks, get real, expert information.

Here are some resources suggested by the Smithsonian regarding conservation:



There’s a beautiful spot on a wall in the living room where a beam of sunlight shines in the afternoon, highlighting the art I bought. Why are you looking at me funny?

I’m sorry, but a fast way to destroy a work of art is to place it in direct sunlight.

But it’s only for an hour or so a day, and some days it rains. The location is magical.

A fast way to destroy a work of art is to place it in direct sunlight. However strongly you feel this is the perfect spot for it, move the work immediately to a place out of direct sun or you will destroy the art and it will lose its beauty and its value.

You don’t understand. What kind of advisor are you, suggesting I move something that looks beautiful where it is?

I do understand. You have a choice: you can enjoy that work there for a short period of time, knowing you’re destroying it. Or you can move it somewhere, enjoy it for much longer, and preserve it for future generations. If you leave a work in direct sunlight, that’s your choice, but as an arts professional, I have to tell you, it is a bad choice. Anyone who sees the art who knows anything about art will be horrified you have made that choice. There are many ways to show off art beautifully without causing harm.

The pride of my Collection is hanging in the living room over the fireplace, as it should be. In the evenings, after I’ve made a beautiful fire in the fireplace, I sit on the sofa with a snifter of fine brandy and an expensive cigar, contemplate my artwork, and feel all is well with the world. Why are you looking at me funny?

Again, I’m sorry to tell you that the worst place to install a work of art is over a fireplace that is used as a fireplace. The heat and the smoke will destroy its appearance and value rapidly.

Doesn’t every picture of a living room in a fancy decorating magazine have a painting over the fireplace?

I love decorating magazines; they are elaborately staged fantasies designed to sell magazines. I find them fun to look at. Likewise, the houses depicted in movies are fun fantasies. Often, I see in magazines and movies a living room with a painting over a fireplace. I hope the artwork is fake, or they use a computer program to add a simulated fireplace fire… and never light the fireplace.

OK, where do I put the art?

Balance safety needs with your need to see and enjoy the work from the best vantage point. Art goes in a safe, dry, place, out of direct sunlight, and away from high-traffic areas where there is a risk that a child going by on a skateboard will grab it for balance. Art goes in a place where it can be seen and enjoyed often.

How can I keep pictures from getting crooked?

You can buy simple cleats for very little money that will keep the art hanging straight on your wall.  If you want to spend more money on cleats, go to that superstore online named after a river in Brazil.  Dr. Siegel does not get a referral fee for this suggestion.

I’m worried about keeping the art safe in general.

If you want to lock the art to the wall, you can buy simple locking hardware. Security is a complex problem.  However, this may be a good start if you have security concerns.  Other good starts regarding security–especially if the collector has children who like to throw balls indoors–can include custom-built Plexiglas boxes. Again, Dr. Siegel does not get a referral fee for these suggestions, and does not promise any results.  Ask if you have questions, because this is a much longer conversation.