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.

[ Who's Who in the Art Museum ]

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.

  • Know the heck out of your materials. Become an expert in what you choose to use to make art and insist on the best-quality materials you can afford.
  • Use acid-free paper and mats, and please get someone else to cut the mats if you can’t cut clean corners. Poorly cut mats are unsightly and the sign of an amateur.
  • Make sure your stretcher bars are at right angles (when they’re supposed to be!) and rest snugly against the wall.
  • Use UV-filtered Plexiglas. (Use Plexi when appropriate—not with pastels!)
  • Use museum-quality hanging and installation devices.
  • Document all of your art with high-quality photographs.
  • Maintain an updated inventory that you can quickly access. Chronology is important for museums, so dates are critical. Artwork Archive is the gold standard for artists and many others in the art world.
  • Inside of each item in your inventory, track its ongoing exhibition record.
  • Make note of any scratches or damages to your art and keep this information logged in an ongoing condition report of the work. This will be inside of your inventory system.
  • Deliver your art in sound packaging. Don't wrap it in newspapers or throw it in department store bags.
  • Display your art in venues, tents, and cases that enhance—rather than detract from—the quality of the work.
  • Create uniform labels and proper credit lines when you show your art online.
  • Insure your art. For this, you need business insurance. A standard homeowner's or rental policy is insufficient.

[ Listen to 4 Levels of Business Insurance for Artists ]

KNOW THIS———-~>
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.

THINK ABOUT THIS—~>
When have you been less than respectful of your art?

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2 thoughts on “Treat Your Art Like It Belongs in a Museum”

  1. 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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