custom framing

Five Takeaways From a Decade in Art Consulting

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Over the past 10 years, I have managed art collections for a diverse group of clients, ranging from large, international banks and law firms, to manufacturing and industrial companies, to small family businesses and private residences. Naturally, every one of these clients has a different method of operating and a different process for building an art collection. Some collections are committee-managed, some are executive-managed, and all are influenced by unique culture and goals. Despite the differences I've encountered, there are five central points to keep in mind while navigating the world of art collecting.  

Quality Comes in Many Styles

In working with a variety of clients, you will encounter not only a wide range of art collection goals, but also many styles of aesthetic preferences. Some clients are interested in historic maps and prints, some want a collection that reflects their company's core values, some want to use their proprietary archival material, and some want cutting-edge contemporary artwork. The good news is that the art world is large enough to account for all of these avenues. While exposing clients to the breadth of styles available is an important part of educating, our job as advisers isn't to dictate a specific taste or style, but to find the highest level of quality within the goals developed by our clients. 

Looking is Better than Talking

Communicating about art can be a challenge. Even within the academic art world, words can be interpreted to mean different things to different people. "Contemporary," "Abstract," or "Traditional" are descriptions we often encounter when speaking with clients about their preferences, and they usually mean something very specific yet different to each person. The best way to avoid confusion and effectively understand what your client is communicating? Use visual examples. Talk about specific parts of actual pieces of art, use descriptive words in conjunction with examples to create a vocabulary you both feel comfortable with. You can read more about our "tastemaker" approach to developing projects here.

Get Creative with Sources

Being an independent art advisory allows us to get creative in our search for the perfect piece of art to add to our client's collection. We are able to pursue whatever source will most successfully address the art collection needs of our clients. While I love working with galleries, auctions and art fairs, and print houses, I also love finding hidden gems from other sources off the beaten path.  

Know When to Become an Expert...and When to Find the Experts

Part of providing the highest level of advice to a client is deeply understanding their collection interests. The only way to do this is to continually educate yourself. The art world is an incredibly diverse and deep pool, and one of the joys of being a consultant is the ability to delve into that diversity to connect our clients with art, artifacts, and specific services that meet their needs. For a client specializing in aerospace technology, we dove into the history of aviation and learned to identify specific aircraft. For a client who loved the style of a particular architect, we researched many motifs in various buildings by that architect to understand and identify significant artifacts and source them. Learn as much as you can.

However, we can't be experts in every aspect of art collecting services. It is imperative to find people who have spent their life's work mastering their craft and connect them to your client's needs. Building a wide network of vendors and colleagues extends the reach of your advisory.  If we have a client that needs conservation of a historic painting, professional rigging of a large sculpture, or custom archival framing of a delicate work on paper, we rely on our community of experts to guide us through the process.

Get Out There!

The art world is constantly in motion, and by staying abreast of the trends, sales, styles, and artists, you can provide your clients with the widest range of options and the most knowledgeable recommendations. The best way to accomplish this is to go out and see the artwork in person (the best way to really experience a work of art), engage the community, meet artists and visit their studios to learn about their process, and continually explore what is being presented in galleries and sales. There is always something new to experience. 

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Using Plexiglass for Archival Artwork Care

PLEXIGLASS VITRINE & LABEL COVERS

PLEXIGLASS VITRINE & LABEL COVERS

In art consulting, one of the most common materials we work with is plexiglass, a common type of acrylic. This transparent thermoplastic has many applications and uses, and requires specific care. When maintained correctly, plexiglass can be a long-lasting material that protects artwork from the elements.

Acrylic in Framing

When framing works on paper, plexiglass is used to protect the surface of the art. Sometimes referred to as "glazing", this plexi is available in many varieties and can be selected based on which characteristics will best fit the artwork’s needs. A common archival consideration with framing artwork is using glazing that blocks UV rays. UV rays from the sun (or even from older lighting fixtures) can damage and fade pigments in artwork, which can lower the aesthetic and financial value of a piece.

If a work on paper has an especially intricate surface texture, another option is to select a non-glare plexi. This is available with UV protection as well, and has a matte finish that makes it easier to see the details clearly.

Vitrines

Three-dimensional artwork can benefit from acrylic’s archival protection as well. Sculptures that stand on pedestals can have custom plexi boxes, also known as vitrines, built to protect them from the elements while still allowing the work to be viewed clearly from 360 degrees. Other artifacts or wall-mounted sculpture can be encased in plexi shadow boxes that mount inside of frames, which protect works displayed on a wall.

Label Covers

An important part of any artwork collection is signage that adds context to the art. We fabricate labels out of vellum, custom paper, or mylar to indicate information about artists and their work. We use thin, custom-cut acrylic is protect these labels because it is easy to read, clean, and reuse. The labels can have holes drilled to accommodate installation hardware, or fit inside aluminum sleeves depending on a collector’s design preference.

Advantages of Acrylic

We use plexiglass when designing custom frames and displays for artwork because it provides customizable archival protection. Acrylic doesn’t interact with chemicals on the surface of artwork, and when correctly implemented the artwork won’t leave a stain on it. Acrylic glazing is durable and doesn’t come with the risk of shattering like glass. To ensure long-term protection, we take certain precautions including never using products designed for glass, like Windex. We use cleaning materials designed for plexi, sprayed onto archival paper to apply it keeps the acrylic clear and minimizes scratches. Although plexiglass is easier to scratch than glass, these can be buffed out by using specific care products.

Acrylic has broad applications in protecting artwork, artifacts, and historical documents. It’s one of the easiest archival materials to maintain when cleaned and treated correctly, and is a minimal investment that can showcase items in a collection while shielding artwork from being directly touched, dust, and UV rays.

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The Value of Archival Framing

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When approaching framing for a client, there are two main goals to consider: framing simply for ease of display or framing to protect an investment made in a work of art. As fine art consultants, we primarily focus on custom frames to protect the integrity of our client's art collections and maintain archival standards, ensuring long-term stability of the artwork.

Many factors contribute to the quality of a frame that we would recommend. Since DeGroot Fine Art is based in Chicago, we partner with local framers at the top of their field who work for elite organizations and museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago.

The framing process includes multiple custom components, including the profile, mat, glazing, and seal. For wood frames, each profile is custom built with hand-cut wood that can be stained to match existing design and furniture in a client's work space. We also collaborate with metal fabricators to create polished stainless steel frames when preferred. Once the frame is complete, they hand-cut mats to best support the artwork, using archival materials to ensure the long-term stability of the artwork. Next a museum-grade acrylic is selected and fitted to filter UV rays (notorious for fading pigments) while minimizing glare. Finally, the framer seals the back of the frame, protecting the interior space and artwork from dust and other contaminants. The framer's craftsmanship is consistent and meticulous through every step of their process.

"A framer's work can be just as much an art as the work of the artist themselves" says Dana McMahan for Apartment Therapy. Her recent article about the expenses of framing was insightful and added context to this topic; we recommend checking it out to learn more about the nuances involved in framing fine art.  

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