July 7, 2008 | Alyson Stanfield

Treat Your Art Like It Belongs in a Museum

From the moment a work of art enters a museum, it is treated as the special one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable object it is. It sits in a crate in the loading area and acclimates to its new surroundings.

Martha Brooks Marshall Art
Martha Marshall, Harbor Triptych. Acrylic on canvas. © The Artist

After sufficient time has passed, it is uncrated by the preparator or registrar who is wearing white gloves. A condition report is conducted–probably by the registrar. She will use the right lighting, magnification, and perhaps even ultraviolet light to ensure nothing has changed since the original condition report that accompanied the piece on its travels.

Loan and insurance forms are completed. Data is entered into the computer.

Gallery lighting is meticulous and at the appropriate foot-candle level for the medium. Labels are uniform. Floors are cleaned and artworks dusted (by someone with authority to handle art).

Everything is done to ensure the artwork is cared for properly and seen in its best light.

Whether you’re a painter, sculptor, jeweler, photographer, fiber artist, woodworker, or ceramist, you can do the same. Treat your art like it belongs in a museum and you just might see it there someday.

I don’t expect you to wear white gloves whenever you touch your art or to demand that your crates be acclimated for 48 hours. But you can still treat your art like it belongs in a museum. Here are some ways to start.

  • Insist on the best-quality materials you can afford.
  • Use acid-free paper and mats.
  • Use UV-filtered Plexiglas. (Use Plexi when appropriate–not with pastels!)
  • Document all of your art with high-quality photographs and in an up-to-date database.
  • Insure your art.
  • Deliver your art in sound packaging.
  • Display your art in venues, tents, and cases that enhance–rather than detract from–the quality of the work.
  • Create uniform labels and marketing material (both on paper and in electronic form).
  • Make sure your stretcher bars are at right angles (when they’re supposed to be!) and rest snugly against the wall.
  • Use only pencils when writing or working near art in order to avoid any permanent and damaging ink marks.
  • Make note of any scratches or damages to your art and keep this information logged in an ongoing condition report of the work.
  • Use museum-quality hanging and installation devices.

You can’t expect others to treat your art like it belongs in a museum if you don’t set the standard.

DO THIS————~>
Treat your art like it belongs in a museum. Do what you can to ensure it is handled respectfully and is seen in its best light. Set an example for those who will handle your work in the future.

When have you been less than respectful of your art?

2 comments add a comment
  • Maxine Jones

    I draw on my iPad with an iPad pencil. It is Mobile Digital Art. What is my medium? Is there such thing as digital ink.

    I have a show starting New Year’s Eve. I have listed it as iPad with iPad pencil, which really explains a process, rather than a mdium. It will be hung that way. But I am wondering for the future.

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