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Help, My Art Is Turning Blue

Perhaps ten or so years ago, you bought a lovely print, had it framed and hung it on your wall. There it still hangs minding its own business. As an inanimate object, it can’t cry out, “Help, help! The sun is fading my inks and I’m turning blue!” (Blue is the most sun-resistant color in the spectrum which is why it is about the only color left when a print is badly faded.)

It has been hanging in the same spot for so long and the fading process happens so gradually, it is nearly impossible to tell how much different it looks now from when you first purchased it. As you can see in the photo, the difference can be quite dramatic. The image on the right is a William Mangum print that had been hanging in passive sunlight with regular glass for fifteen years.  The image on the left is the same print that has never seen the sun.

Some collectible artists keep a selection of unsigned, unnumbered pieces to serve as replacements.  They sign and renumber the new print and destroy the damaged one sothere will be only one of each numbered print. Unfortunately, not every artist provides this service and once the damage is done, the value is gone not to mention your enjoyment of the art.

Lessons to be learned from this:

  • Art framed many years ago needs to be examined.  It is less likely conservation framing techniques were used and the art may be damaged.  Sooner is better than later when this is the case.
  • For paper art: the glass, mats and mount are what need to be examined and possibly replaced with UV-filtering glass and acid-free mats and mounting materials.
  • Oil paintings aren’t out of the woods either.  Sunlight, smoke, dust, humidity and other contaminants can take their toll, so original art needs to be examined as well. Old varnish may need to be removed and reapplied.  You would be amazed at the difference after such a simple process.

Is your art soundlessly crying out, “Help me! Help me!”  If the trees in your print are the same color as the sky, you have a fading problem. If the image on your original work is so dark and cloudy you can hardly see it, it needs to be cleaned and revarnished. Gallery Director Andy McAfee loves looking at old artwork, so bring yours in for a free assessment or he makes house call

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