Three Framed Art Works
Just returned from a week in sunny Delray Beach, Florida, restoring three framed art works for two private collectors.
These works are important pieces by Michael Singer. They are among his earliest works-on-paper from the 1970’s. At that time, in his 20’s, he was not always concerned with paper quality or the importance of acid-free materials for long-term preservation. Both collectors, aware of the need for these works to be better preserved, asked me to provide the restoration services.
Meanwhile, my wife relaxed on the gorgeous beaches, and we were graciously hosted by the artist who is also an amazing chef!
Over four days, each artwork was carefully inspected and disassembled. Old foam core and cardboard that was not acid-free and a plywood backing were replaced with new museum-quality materials. Wooden backings were re-glued at all of their joints. Then the artwork was closely inspected to remove any dust or other extraneous material that found their way between the artwork and its protective glass over the many years that these works have been on display in the homes of their owners. How dust and microscopic-sized bugs get into framed art is a mystery to me.
Then I attached the artwork to new foam core backing with special Japanese rice paper hinges and extra custom-made holders that further secure these unusually heavy collages without being seen.
Custom-made iron frames, beautifully aged and even slightly rusted in spots, were cleaned and lacquered. The rust was not removed as the artist likes the look. Special spacers were placed between the Plexiglas and the artwork, underneath the border of the frame and out of sight of the viewer, in order that the art no longer touches the Plexiglas. This further preserves the art.
Two of these works are in fine condition. One caused me a brief moment of art conservation horror! Instead of non-acid-free foam core or cardboard which is concerning enough, this piece was backed by a thin sheet of plywood. The resins from the wood and the glue used to laminate plywood can damage paper worse than just about anything else! Consequently, over time the outer edges of the artwork have yellowed but not too badly. Replacing this ply with acid-free foam core will delay any further yellowing.
All the work involved in this restoration process was formally documented and sent to the collectors for insurance and appraisal purposes.
These non-matted works did not, at first glance, need any replacement Plexiglas, but upon removal clearly did. This little extra detail became a big factor as I searched the local and surrounding glass and framing businesses for replacement Plexiglas of the large and thin dimensions that I needed.
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Not easily found! And I had a plane to catch in two days for my next project! After over a dozen calls and even a visit to a business that had just gone out-of-business, I found just what I wanted thanks to Melissa at Delray Art & Framing Center. She went the extra mile to be sure I received exactly what I wanted and sooner than I expected. Once in a while along my travels I meet special people that I’ll never forget. She’s one of them!
At the end of it all I cleaned the glass of any fingerprints I may have left plus fine lint and dust that accumulates even in the minutes between removing the protective film and placing it over the artwork. I use a special solution that does not damage the Plexiglas while removing dust, dirt, and static electricity. Plus the screws that hold the frame together were replaced with black-headed ones that match the frame.
Finally I inspected the equipment used to display the art on the walls – hangers and lights – applying minor adjustments.
One of my clients, Louise and Herbert, knowing I was versed in the repair of art pools asked me to check their newly repaired outdoor hot tub. Despite my busy schedule I managed to squeeze in a couple minutes at no extra charge.
By the way, Herb and Louise, whose last names I will not mention in respect of their privacy, were the most enjoyable clients I have ever worked for. Herb’s stories are absolutely priceless!
When I returned to my office I checked to be sure these framed art works are included in Mr. Singers registry, a project he commissioned me to assemble and keep updated. This is an ongoing project begun five years ago and including archival descriptions of all of his works of art – sculpture as well as drawings.
One surprise was discovering that the artist had lightly painted a very thin coat of grey over the surface of one frame. This is not something I observed in any other of his framed art. When I asked Michael about it he replied, “I have no idea why that frame is painted!”
This last photo shows me with my favorite employee, accountant, trip advisor, and photographer, my wife Bonnie Cueman who took some time out from her busy schedule to accompany me on this trip! By the way, all the photos in this post are by Bonnie.