Last Monday I went to a lovely pub restaurant; one which is part of a new chain. I was impressed. There were friendly, helpful staff, lovely interiors, a log fire, fabulous, well-presented food and a corridor filled with what looked like original artworks. On closer inspection, I found that they were indeed originals. They were very interesting, large, pen and watercolour pieces and each reflected an incident in the town’s history. What an original and wonderful thing for a pub to commission! There were 20 or 30 of them – no small investment in time, thought, framing, cost or insurance. This, surely, is a collection to be treated with care.
I was surprised, then, to see that two of them were hung directly over a radiator. During a conversation, I mentioned it to the pub manager who said that the collection was curated by the artist. I asked if anyone minded that the images were hung directly over a heat source. The manager looked surprised and said ‘….well….’ Either it had never occurred to anybody that heat isn’t great for pictures or they were aware, but the paintings had to remain over the radiator.
Why should the manager care? Three reasons: expansion, contraction and chemical reaction. As things become warmer, they expand. As things become colder, they contract. When this happens regularly the work gradually becomes unstable. As things become warmer, for each 10 degrees of warmth the chemical reaction rate – which leads to deterioration – doubles. Art should ideally be kept at one constant temperature of 19-22 degrees. Seasonal changes are acceptable as they occur over a long period of time, but if radiators are on and off this will accelerate the natural deterioration process and the reaction of the ink and watercolour with each other, the paper, the backing and the frame. The end result is that the pub will have a series of lovely artworks with two that are brittle, brown and wavy.
So what to do? We don’t all have the space to not hang things over radiators. The pub manager could try these:
1) Turn down that radiator
2) Have the radiators on constantly low rather than on and off
3) Fit a radiator cover or shelf over the radiator: the heat will go out rather than up
4) Swap those pictures for others occasionally
5) Re-site the pictures and put a less important item, or nothing, in their place
5) If you’ve done all you can and aren’t compounding your mistake with sunlight, strong lamplight, humidity, dust etc, don’t think about it again and enjoy your original art. That’s what it’s for.