Tru Vue for Collectors: How To Be Smart with your Art at Home

Have you bought a piece of original art? Fantastic! Welcome to the wonderful world of art ownership! But what now? Tru Vue are manufacturers of optically coated fine art glazing and pioneers in the protection and conservation of all things framed and displayed; setting the standard for glazing that enhances, protects, and beautifies. 

Alisa Vincentelli is Tru Vue’s International Museum & Conservation Liaison. With a thorough background of expertise in Modern and Contemporary Art conservation at established National collections such as The Tate; contemporary art spaces like BALTIC; auction houses like Christie’s; and museums and historic houses such as The Bowes Museum, we wanted to learn a thing or two from Alisa about how best to protect our art investments in the home.

Alisa Vincentelli, Tru Vue’s International Museum & Conservation Liaison.

Where did your interest in conservation begin?

In the early 90s, and following a degree in classics and archaeology in London, I undertook a voluntary internship at the Conservation department of the Byzantine Museum in Athens working on Greek Orthodox Icons. This opportunity absolutely confirmed my interest in pursuing a career in the field and I spent the next four years in the post-graduate study of easel paintings conservation at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. My conservation journey moved from early Greek and Florentine panel paintings through to developing a specialism in Modern and Contemporary Art. I’ve worked as a conservator for National collections such as The Tate, contemporary art spaces like BALTIC, auction houses like Christie’s, and museums and historic houses such as The Bowes Museum and then Auckland Castle, County Durham.  After working as Head of Conservation there in 2016, I moved to my current role as International Museum and Conservation Liaison for Tru Vue in 2019. Tru Vue is manufacturers of optically coated fine art glazing.

What are some key preventative measures a regular household can invest in to maintain gallery-quality artwork within the home?

Luckily, in the broadest sense, most artworks require an environment similar to that which people find comfortable to live in: dry, protected from the elements, and of a reasonably consistent temperature around 20 degrees C and relative humidity that doesn’t generally exceed the 40 – 60%. Beyond that, to give some basic pointers, care should be taken to position artworks away from direct sunlight, avoid hanging directly above heat sources such as radiators or on external walls unless well insulated. Bathrooms are not ideal locations for original artworks (for obvious reasons of increased moisture levels) and beware of displaying unglazed artworks in areas where food and drinks are commonly consumed. Wherever you choose to hang your art, secure the work safely in position using appropriate fittings for the weight of the work. Be vigilant with stored artwork, or artworks on display in unoccupied homes: these may be at increased risk of insect damage/environmental degradation, which can develop and progress quickly out of sight. Of course, not all art needs or is intended to be framed, however, probably the single most beneficial preventive measure an art owner can take beyond the basics mentioned already is to frame with UV blocking glazing and apply a backboard. Choosing shatterproof glazing provides additional security and an anti-reflective coating can ensure this protective measure looks great with reduced reflection and enhanced transmission.

What are the main things that can damage works?

Artworks are of course subject, like all of us, to change. Ageing artworks can exhibit signs of damage ranging from the slight to the severe, whether caused by light, water leaks, soot and dirt deposits, by tears and impact gashes, cut glass scratches, insects or extreme environmental fluctuations. But new and fresh artworks can suffer these damages too, and in some respects, they may be more prone. In many ways, what happens to artworks in their first ten years of life largely determines their longevity trajectory. Before an artwork has had time to become ‘historically’ valuable, inappropriate handling, storage and display can be more common. Fingerprints even from ‘fairly’ clean hands can quickly and irreversibly muddy a minimalist pale background on an unvarnished, unframed painting. For many contemporary works, be they works on paper, paintings or textiles, if allowed to accumulate dust dirt, spills and stains, these can become forever a part of the surface structure of the artwork (particularly on exposed unpainted areas or barely dry oil paint), being difficult or even impossible to fully remove during conservation treatment. Damage such as fading, which can be caused by exposure to high light levels including the particularly harmful UV portion of the spectrum we don’t actually need to ‘see’ with, can never be reversed, and will occur at a steeper faster rate in a youthful artwork than a 300 year old one.

What are some important questions you should always ask your framer?

Here I offer some of the basic questions that come to mind when framing and glazing a work. It is not an exhaustive list, as orginal artworks require an approach unique to their nature.

  • Do you offer UV protective glazing and if so what percentage of UV does it block? The UltraViolet portion of daylight or artificial light is particularly harmful to artworks, fine art glazing can block up to 99% of this ‘invisible’ part of the spectrum. The higher the percentage of UV blocked the better. (But don’t forget, visible light can damage too!)
  • Can you offer me a glazing that is also shatterproof?Accidents and broken glass can = damaged artwork.
  • Can you offer glazing that is also anti-reflective?Reducing distracting reflections down to around 1% (standard glass and acrylic reflect 8% light) is an aesthetic rather than a conservation choice, but it can have the biggest impact on the appearance of your framed artwork.
  • Can you ensure there is adequate spacing between the surface of the artwork and the glazing? – It is important to avoid any contact between the artwork surface and glazing. Contact can result in damage.
  • Can you also fit a backboard to the reverse? – A simple inert lightweight board on the reverse of your work will keep dust and dirt out and provide a buffer to environmental fluctuations.
  • Do you use conservation standard materials within the frame package?Acidic components, for example within a mount or passe-partout, can accelerate deterioration.
  • Can you provide suitable packaging for transporting the artwork, and advice on appropriate hanging hardware for me to use?Transport presents a high risk factor for artworks, and accidental damage is not uncommon during house moves and refurbishments. Conservators are, for example, reporting higher-than-normal incidence of breakage and tears to artworks during the pandemic-related increase in home redecoration.
Photo credit: Iwan Baan. Image courtesy of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

If you were to use the Own Art scheme, which piece would you get for your own personal collection?

I have used it! Twice in fact; once for a black and white pencil drawing by the painter George Shaw, and again for a large limited edition photo work by Rodney Graham. While there are just so many options on my wish list, I would dearly love to purchase an original Etel Adnan painting – which I would have framed in Optium Museum Acrylic, in a box frame. Now that I know framing and museum quality conservation glazing can be included as part of the Own Art loan, I’d definitely arrange for this through the gallery. The only problem being I think I’d love it so much, I’d have to commission a little cushioned transit crate for it so I could take it with me wherever I go. I’m not sure the Own Art finance scheme would cover that part!

You can read a little about the Tru Vue team here and explore their full range of products here, which includes more affordable types of glazing commonly offered by framers.

Check out the educational videos they’ve made on YouTube: Understanding the Wave! and UV Blocking are particularly interesting to watch!