How to Recognize Bad Framing
Art is subjective; that’s what makes it wonderful. Art can be found in everything from gift wrap to priceless paintings to signed photographs. These days, it seems as though the rules of what makes art “good” have been thrown out the window in favor of unusual and unorthodox pieces.
We’re in favor of weird art, but we’re not always a fan of the frames that come with the art.
You can purchase interesting art from a number of sources: galleries, cruise ships, auctions, online sites, etc. The pieces can either be framed or unframed, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to pick which one you want. It’s easy to think that choosing the framed option is better because it seems like you may be getting a deal, and the art is ready to hang on your wall. However, that isn’t always the case. Most of the time, the framing is just expensive and bad.
Signs of Bad Framing
Pre-framed art is usually done on the cheap. We say “usually” because we have seen art come from galleries that has been beautifully executed, but that is the exception, not the rule. Many artists and art sources choose the lowest common denominator of framing and tack on a significant up-charge on inexpensive frames that look good. It’s easy to pop the art in and give the overall piece a finished look.
Knowing this, we always try to purchase art unframed. Unless the deal is too good to pass up or the frame is actually well made, we believe it is better to choose the frame design you love. However, there are times when you cannot purchase something unframed. How can you tell if a piece is poorly framed?
First, take a look at the back and check for these signs:
- Gaps between the art and the frame. Gaps lets bugs and humidity into the art and will cause mold, damage, and deterioration.
- Lacks the proper backing paper. The paper has a purpose. It is supposed to keep bugs and dust out of the frame. The materials should always be acid free. Kraft and black paper along with cardboard are not acid free and could cause damage if the art is not properly framed.
- No label. It’s standard practice for custom framers to include their name and care instructions on the back of the frame. It’s possible that mistakes happen and the framer forgot to put that on, but it is usually a sign that the pieces were not handled by a professional.
- Loose hardware. Do not assume that the hardware is secure. Pull on it to make sure it is tight and stable.
Next, turn to the front of the piece. Look at the mat core (the beveled edge around the art). The core should be white, unless it is a solid core mat where the outside color carries through the entire mat. If it is not white, then the piece has a cheaper production mat that will leave a burn mark on the art.
If you have purchased a piece of art that is poorly framed, don’t panic. You have a few options to preserve and protect your art.
It’s important to know that you do not have to use any frame that comes with a piece of art, unless you want to. A frame may be cheaply made, but it can still be pretty. If you like the frame, but it shows some of the signs from above, you can choose to have the piece refitted with new glazing, matting, and conservation backing materials. This would ensure that the art is properly protected from humidity, bugs, light, and more.
Your other option is to ditch the frame and choose something new.
It’s a bold decision to show off this project in Ravens territory, but we had a client that purchased this autographed photo of Terry Bradshaw at an auction. The print is a cheap production piece made on materials that last about eight years if it isn’t taken care of properly. Sharpies fade quickly when exposed to sunlight. This is an expensive photograph that could not afford to be poorly framed.
The backing did not have paper, had gaps, and was fitted using cardboard. The matting was acidic and the glass did not have any UV protection. This combination would have destroyed the photograph over time. It was a no-brainer to see that this needed a completely new frame and fitting.
We have a series of mats in our studio that matches the colors of every single NFL team. Using the branded colors, we triple matted the photo to add a little bit of intrigue. We opted to use a faux leather frame that feels like leather. It looks cool and it plays off of the football theme. The art was fitted with conservation materials, along with UV protected glass that will protect this piece for years to come.
It’s important to know your options when it comes to art. We have clients who are afraid to purchase art because they don’t know enough about what they are buying. Understanding the difference between a good framing job and a poor one is one of the first steps to purchasing art. The next step is to know what you like.
For tips on how to keep your art healthy, check out our guide.