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.
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.
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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