In the frame...Conservators have concerns.
In the frame...Conservators have concerns.
The nation's art is being damaged and destroyed by shoddy framing, warn conservators. Raymond Gill reports.
THEY might describe themselves as a ''small committed minority'' but about 30 framers, conservators and archivists gathered last week to discuss the vital - but unsexy - topic of how the poor conservation of art and historical material outside of our main public collections is a huge cost to the country's cultural heritage.
The one-day symposium at the Melbourne Convention Centre was organised by Canberra framer Quentin Webster for the Professional Picture Framers' Association and moderated by Melbourne University conservator Associate Professor Robyn Sloggett. It discussed the shortsightedness of investing in art while failing to acknowledge that proper conservation was the only way to preserve its looks and value.
''There's a phenomenal amount of bad framing destroying art works,'' said Webster, referring to art held in private hands, as well as in schools, small museums, libraries and historical associations.
Basic dangers such as exposure to light, variations in temperature and humidity, and ''environmental pollution'' are often underestimated, if not disregarded.
Even when works are professionally framed, the buyer often chooses the cheapest option but this could cause long-term damage. Delegates told horror stories of framers guaranteeing a short life for valuable art works by using glue, staples and buffered matt boards instead of more expensive but effective materials. The establishment of a regulatory authority for framers was suggested as a way of lifting standards and owners more aware of proper conservation.
''We need the community to put pressure on the framing industry, as that will be only way we will get things to change,'' Webster said.
''The federal government spent $39 million in four years promoting arts and crafts but how much of that goes to conservation? Cultural heritage is given little prominence in national policy-making,'' he said.
Associate Professor Sloggett said the thousands of framers in cities, regional areas and indigenous communities were often the only or last contact an artist might have with his or work after it is sold, so their role was often underestimated.
''We need to preserve the provenance chain from a work's creation,'' the art fraud expert said, adding that such records were crucial when a work's authenticity was questioned.
The symposium also discussed the challenges of conserving art when artists were increasingly using materials with short life-spans.
''Do people realise the work that they are spending a lot of money on might not last 50 years?'' one delegate asked, prompting the suggestion that art patrons need to be clearly advised about each work's conservation by its vendor.
Associate Professor Sloggett said her conservation department at Melbourne University had only recently begun working with the National Film and Sound Archive on the preservation of digital art work.
So what's her advice if you've recently spent tens of thousand of dollars on some video art and have it stored along with the other CDs near your hi-fi system?
''Don't vacuum near it,'' she advises. ''The vibrations affect its integrity''.