Art for Posterity

Sharan Apparao tells you how you can preserve and protect your pieces of art for posterity

Water Colour
When we start living amidst beautiful objects and works of art, often the aesthetics and placing of objects becomes an act of the owner’s relationship with the work and how they view of the object to give them pleasure. In this act of desire, one sometimes one forgets its life and safety. With time, the value of art increases like other assets; hence it is important to preserve and protect the work of art.

Art is a chronicle of a mind and a documentation of a time. Today we know about the past from the architecture, sculpture and painting of the past. The inscriptions on temple walls talk about the patronage of the kings and the calligraphic documents of the Mughals reflected the arts of the time. The steel engravings and lithographs of William and Thomas Danielle give us a glimpse of what India was like under the rule of the British and the monuments that even they appreciated in India. Fine examples of art have survived because of how they have been cared for.

In Ladakh, the monastery in the little village of Alchi, has perhaps the best-preserved examples of centuries old paintings and sculptures, where the vibrancy of the jewel colours of the murals and frescoes remains intact until today. The breathtaking vision of the dim interior and extraordinary skill of the Alchi murals and say, the Vimana of Gangaikondacholapuram, in Tanjore district, are visual sights that linger in ones memory for decades. The intensity of the beauty and drama is timeless and as piercing as it must have been even when it was created.

To preserve and protect works of art one needs to look at the following simple steps to maintain the freshness, the life, and the value of the art work. Yes, there are professional consultants also, whose advice will certainly add a timeless quality to your art collection.

Mughal Calligraphy 2

One of the most underestimated culprits of decay is harsh light. Paintings especially water colours or pencil drawings should be shown only under very mild, soft and low lights and never ever near harsh sunlight. Oil and acrylic paintings on canvas or wood need controlled light even though they are not as sensitive as works on paper. Sunlight is perhaps the worst poison for a canvas or paper art works.

Moisture and air circulation
Paper, canvas and other natural materials need to breathe. They need to be kept open or in situations where there is a circulation of air. In damp, moist environments these works can develop mould and fungus. It is a good idea to keep paintings on the wall by creating a cavity / gap / space by placing little stoppers on the corners at the back of the artwork.

Today, many options are available to enhance and preserve a work in a frame. However, while, it is done primarily to keep out insects, moisture and accidental handling it is also added as an accent. While choosing a frame and mount, keep in mind that acidity affects a works of art. The glue, tape and mounts /matts need to be acid free. The frames should be made of seasoned wood so avoid warping and bending with time. This movement happens when the wood used is young and full of natural moisture. The selection of wood for a frame is important, when commercial frames are not an option.

Temple Inscriptions 2

In India, one has to be very careful of rodents. Squirrels love the taste, smell and texture of canvas. So, be wary of these cute creatures if you find them running around the inside of your spaces .Storage rooms need to be well aired, without humidity. It is best to store works wrapped in muslin standing vertical. Better still is to store them, “hung” on a wall.
In the case of a lack of walls then a rack that is off the floor with works standing up will work well. Make sure you have something (cardboard /plywood) to separate one work from the other or allow the frames to rest on each other. Never allow anything to rest on a canvas. Glass should also always be stores vertically as the weight of many glass sheets lying on one another will crack the glass.

Humidity and the sea air
This is the one factor that can create fungus, dampness and discolouration of the art work
Sea air has a lot of salt content and this mixed with humidity can create a film / layer over a painted surface that can lead to corrosion. This situation needs professional cleaning.
Dehumidifier s can help and constant air condition will protect it. Extreme temperatures changes is very harmful and putting on an air conditioner for long periods and not using it for equally long periods sometimes causes condensation and this could be harmful as the work is being put through a stress of two extremes.

Mughal Calligraphy

Transporting and packing
Art works need to be cared for just as one would care for a one day old baby. While packing, the focus should always be on over packing and an anticipation of manhandling works. Most handlers don’t understand art so packing to protect it from bad handling is a great protection. Never attempt moving large glass works without adequate protection and the right handlers. Wooden crates protect work in most cases. Sculpture need to be packed in a cavity. Cushions, quilts, polystyrene, sponges make great packing protections.