A Master Framer on How to Preserve Artwork for Decades

By
Jed Bark, the framer. Photo: Kyle Dorosz

In our Ask the Experts series, Design Hunting gets renovation and décor advice from professionals in disciplines from color consultancy to landscape design.

Jed Bark
Founder, Bark Frameworks

Where do you start when framing valuable art?
First, do no harm. The second thing is preservation. Whatever environment we make for the work will probably be its home for decades, so we want to be sure the materials we use will, in fact, protect it. Third, we have to ensure that the techniques we use are reversible, so that, 40 years from now, the work can come out of the frame and be in the condition it was in when we installed it.

What do a lot of people do that they should avoid?
Framers should never mount works. You’re adhering the art to a board, and that’s almost always irreversible. If a collector brings us a work to be mounted, we’ll ask if that’s what the artist wants. We’ll call the gallery.

For this Edgar Degas drawing, Bark built a rose-gold-gilded frame. It’s based on the frame of a Caillebotte, which was derived from Degas’s own frames. Photo: Chris Feczko/Courtesy of Bark Frameworks

How big of a threat is natural light?
No work should ever be hung so sunlight passes directly over it. Light changes the microenvironment inside the frame, causing swelling and contraction that ages the work very quickly. UV-blocking glazing — either acrylic or glass — should always be used, but even with the UV removed, sunlight is three times as damaging as incandescent light.

Any other environmental factors to consider?
Heat and humidity. A difference of 18 degrees Fahrenheit doubles the rate of chemical reactions, so going from 60 to 78 degrees doubles that risk of damaging oxidation. Materials used in framing absorb and release water, so if the art is going to the Hamptons or the Caribbean, we might install humidity-indicator strips on the back.

What’s something not worth framing that people insist on framing anyway?
One time, some friends of mine gave me their son’s high-school diploma to frame. [Laughs.] He went on to much more important things — it’s a high-school diploma! Every ten years, they’d ask me about it and I’d just sort of mumble. I just thought it was stupid. I’ve still got it, and he’s 50 now.

*This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of New York Design Hunting.

A Master Framer on How to Preserve Artwork for Decades