The art of framing

There is an art to framing and displaying art in your home. Of course most artworks are sold in some kind of frame, and frames can be costly, so why go to the trouble of replacing them? Well, you don’t want your home to look like a showroom. So an important thing to consider in displaying your art collection to its full potential will be the way the pieces are framed and how this creates a harmonious display.

Here are five reasons to re-frame an artwork:

1. The frame is unattractive

There are some truly ugly frames that overpower the work and draw too much attention to themselves. Is the frame overly fussy, cheap or decorative? Time to replace it.

If the frame is original to the piece, by all means replace it but retain the original frame as fashions do change and a future owner might prefer the original ‘look’.

2. The frame is damaged

One of the functions of a frame is to protect the work, so inevitably they will take a few dings over time and start to look tired. A unique artist-made frame or one which is hand-carved or antique should be restored.

3. The artwork will look better in a different frame

This is a matter of taste. If a work has been framed under the artist’s supervision, it may well be the best fit for the work. For example, works by Brett Whiteley in hand-crafted water-gilded frames by the master framer Brett Lichtenstein.

If you are convinced the frame is wrong, then seek out a second opinion from someone with an expert eye such as your framer or gallerist. For watercolours or works on paper, a fresh mount might be all that is needed to lift the work.

4. The artwork will harmonise better in your home

In the 19th Century Parisian art dealers framed the radically new style of painting by the Impressionists in antique gilt frames. This made the new pictures more compatible with their clients’ homes, and started a trend for this style of framing which lasts until today. If you are thinking along these lines, do remember the frame’s most important job is to enhance the work. Try hanging works with compatible frames together, changing the colour of the walls or playing around with lighting.

5. The work is unframed

It is not uncommon for contemporary artists to exhibit and sell their work unframed. Some artists paint right up to the edge of the canvas, and even over the edge so it becomes part of the image. Such works can be framed with a shadow box that keeps the edge visible. If you prefer the unframed look you will need to ensure the work is handled with extra care and this can be a big ask even for the professionals.

Final thoughts

A frame for an image or object should both enhance its visual interest and separate it from its surroundings. A frame should never overpower a work, but rather complement it. This will generally mean choosing a frame of the same style or period as the work. Framing should be completely reversible. If there are any labels or inscriptions on the back of a work, these should be preserved for future reference.

If like me, you love antique frames, I recommend reading UK framer Paul Mitchell’s blog.

For more advice on framing to enhance your art collection in your home, please do get in touch!

Reference: McAlpine, A. & Giangrande, C., Collecting and Display, Conran Octopus Limited, London,1998

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