Recreating Gallery Conditions at Home

Collecting art is a passion for many, whether at the home or the office. It is a calling to be sure. You acquire examples from a given time period, artist, or style to create a microcosm of the world’s inventory. It takes a practiced eye, some significant funds, a place to hang and store the works, and the will to proceed. I cannot say enough about forming a collection as a pastime.

I have been known to indulge myself so I have developed some tips and tricks over the years. Some pertain to cataloguing a piece and establishing provenance, or the history of ownership. Others have to do with understanding materials, methods, and the chemistry of inks and paint. For the latter, you begin to learn the role of conservation of your collection to keep it in tip top shape. It is all about preserving the pristine nature of any particular work of art.

You can recreate gallery conditions at home with a little research and foresight. First, however, you will want to frame your art for protection. A frame around an oil painting, for example, creates a visual edge and also prevents damage during transport. Matting, glass, and a frame for a work on paper enhances its image and also creates a barrier with the world at large. Once the works of art in your collection are in situ in your home, you then have other issues at stake. For me, living in a humid climate, I need to control the environment and the degree of moisture in the air. This can damage works on paper in particular, causing foxing and mold spots. Since these are difficult to repair, it is best to combat the problem with advance preventatives.

A dehumidifier is the device I use to do the job, just like galleries and museums. You often see them sitting inconspicuously in the corner. A console model that is portable and rests on the floor or a cabinet is fine. The size to select depends on where you are housing your art. If wall mounted and stored art are in the same room, you need to figure the square footage overall. If the entire premise is involved, you need a larger “whole house” model. In any case you want adjustable controls and all the bells and whistles.

Dehumidifiers are often used in basements to control unhealthy air quality, mold, mildew, and allergens. When dealing with an art collection, it is a bit of a different matter. You are not so concerned about breathing comfortably and restoring health and well-being. By contrast, you are preserving inanimate objects. The principle of operation, however, is the same. You can eliminate the spread of mold colonies (and related odors) while you dry out the environment. Any art collector who cares about maintaining the quality of the contents should purchase the correct one.

Don’t confuse the sister appliance, the humidifier. It does just the opposite and spews moisture in the form of steam or mist into the air. You may need this for a child with asthma, but as for the priceless things in your possession, it services no real purpose.