Art Care

You’ve acquired the things you love over the years with a discerning eye; now help protect what these possessions are worth to you. Assessing your home for potentially hazardous situations and providing your cleaning service, maid, butler, landscaper or other housekeeping staff with some clear and simple instructions will help. To start, you’ll want to identify items that should never be touched by household employees without prior instructions from you or your conservator. And when it comes to specifics, it’s important to know the following:

  1. Light-sensitive objects such as textiles or works on paper should never be displayed in direct sunlight, where they are likely to fade.
  2. Climate-sensitive items such as wood, bone and ivory artifacts should never be hung over heat vents or near fireplaces, where they are likely to dry out and crack.
  3. Never pick up fragile objects with one hand.
  4. Never pick up an object by its most vulnerable point, such as the handles or neck.
  5. Don’t push or pull furniture. If a piece is too heavy to lift alone, get help.
  6. Don’t dust with a rag or anything else that could snag on sharp or ragged edges. Use a synthetic or feather duster.
  7. Never use the vacuum cleaner to pick up stray soot and then use the same brush to vacuum cobwebs off a valuable piece of art. Label a separate brush for “clean” objects.
  8. Mass-marketed cleaning products and art don’t necessarily mix. Never use a cleaning solution on a work of art unless a conservator has approved it.
  9. Art and weed whackers don’t mix either. Have your landscaper make a bed of mulch or other barrier around an outdoor sculpture to keep it clear of machinery.
  10. Make sure your landscaper knows that unless a conservator has specified otherwise, outdoor art should be protected with plastic whenever insecticides, herbicides and other chemicals are sprayed.

Don’t “Sweep it Under the Rug”

No matter how many precautions are taken, the possibility of breakage always exists in and around the home. Make sure your household staff knows what to do if something happens. Above all else, your staff must know that literally “sweeping it under the rug” is not the answer. The staff must be trained to collect and save all of the pieces. A piece of masking tape pressed to the floor to gather even the smallest fragments of that Tang Dynasty horse might be the difference between a completely successful restoration and a disappointing one.

Next: Art on Loan