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Old 12-05-2017, 10:21 PM
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bvanevery bvanevery is offline
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preventing condensation, long term storage

I will have need to store my acrylic paintings for a few years, as I don't currently have my own place. I'll have modest if not perfect climate control available, i.e. a semi-finished basement. I've read about recommended packing materials, and ones to avoid.

I'm mainly confused about the potential for condensation. I consider the following to be strange advice:

from SpareFoot Blog:
Quote:
Wrap your paintings in material that protects from dust, scratching and bugs while allowing air to circulate. Tissue paper, breathable sheets or blankets, and foam are all viable options for protecting your artwork in storage. Avoid plastic wrap and bubble wrap, as these materials will block air circulation and trap condensation, leading to water damage.

from Art Squared art collection management:
Quote:
Then wrap it with a high-grade polyethylene. Wrap it completely around, like a Christmas present, covering the face and the back, and do all of the taping on the back side. Use packing tape, but don't overdo it. Don't seal the overlapping edges of the plastic; the idea is to provide a barrier against moisture, but to allow air to pass through. A work that is completely sealed in can develop condensation as it passes through different environmental conditions.

If work is completely sealed in airtight plastic, I don't see how it's going to "develop" condensation. It has whatever moisture was inside when it was sealed. Now, perhaps one could think one's using a barrier that's impermeable to moisture, but it really isn't. Or one could start with an impermeable barrier, and it could get punctured or degraded over time. But if it's really sealed and stays sealed, I don't get the claim that there would be condensation. Even if there was, like say all the trapped moisture moved to the top of the painting and then dripped in liquid form to the bottom, I'm not sure that's a problem if it has little moisture to begin with.

If a closed system stays closed, then I'm thinking you've got what you've got. What am I missing?

Why would people believe that an open system is superior?

Example: I make beef jerky. I don't use preservatives, so I have to refrigerate it. I guarantee you that I use an airtight container to do that. I'm not interested in the jerky "breathing", that would defeat the purpose of making jerky. Yes, any meat has some moisture remaining in it, or it would be the dry dust of the pharaohs. But when I seal an airtight container, no moisture is going in or out. It's got a locked gasket to stop that from happening. If I really really wanted to, I could vacuum seal the jerky in plastic bags.

A thought: is the basic problem, that people don't really know if their paintings are dry? Oils can take forever to dry. I do acrylics, but that involves a lot of water initially. Not sure to what degree they can retain or absorb water over time.

Or is the problem that people don't know how to make good seals? Tape isn't.
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Old 12-06-2017, 01:37 PM
contumacious contumacious is offline
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

You definitely do NOT want any plastic material touching the surface of your paintings. Virtually all plastic sheeting can adhere to fully dried acrylics. Personally I would not want anything touching the surface. If they are framed, you can use a sheet of cardboard that floats over the painting surface on the frame so you can then wrap them up well in plastic and add a desiccant pack.

Moisture is not a concern where I live so I store mine in dust resistant flat files or cabinets that have a moderate amount of air exchange. I don't allow anything to touch the front of the paintings.

If you need to control the humidity, you might look at building a box or getting a cabinet to hold your paintings with something in it that will keep the humidity low. A Goldenrod Dehumidifier is probably the easiest as it does not require an air tight container like silica gel does and it doesn't lose the ability to remove humidity like Silica Gel can if exposed to a continuous supply of moisture.

If you don't want to build or buy a cabinet, you can make an air tight enclosure that doesn't touch the front of your paintings, then the moisture absorbing materials would work. Just don't confuse oxygen absorbent packets with moisture absorbent packets like some do.

In a basement, particularly with an unsealed concrete floor, you would want to elevate the work off the floor.
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Old 12-06-2017, 07:15 PM
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bvanevery bvanevery is offline
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

Quote:
Originally Posted by bvanevery
Even if there was, like say all the trapped moisture moved to the top of the painting and then dripped in liquid form to the bottom, I'm not sure that's a problem if it has little moisture to begin with.

The subject of condensation and relative humidity is complex. The devil is in the details, and there are possible corner cases I didn't consider.

For instance, artworks on paper are more delicate than acrylic paintings, and pools of moisture on the surface of such artwork would be very bad for them. I stumbled upon a Conservation Physics website, which gives grim details of what can happen to a printed work in an airtight enclosure. This makes me realize, I've made the unwarranted assumption that every part of my acrylic painting is strong, and will remain so, regardless of what pooled wetness it is subjected to. Over time, it could weaken somewhere.

Quote:
Why would people believe that an open system is superior?

Whether it is better to let a work interact with a potentially harmful environment (think of where a naive person might bring / leave your boxed work), or to leave the work "marinading in its own juices" is a complex question.

One issue I didn't consider, is that the work itself may contain harmful acidic gasses, such as if it's painted on wood. I'm not planning to paint on wood, currently Dibond is the leading contender for future work, but outgassing of volatile organic compounds is an issue to worry about. For instance, if one chooses some generic house brand of ACM panel instead of Dibond, and it turns out to be "made in China" with who-knows-what horrible stuff in it, maybe one could get into trouble.

When designing open systems, the conservators talk about "humidity buffering", and various materials which do or don't do that. This can include other artworks in close proximity to each other, especially in a museum context where storage space is at a premium. Can't now find the article where I read that; it's somewhere on the Conservation Physics site.

I think if I read piles of stuff on that site, I will eventually pretty much know what I should be doing. Or at least, I'll be well informed about the various issues. That's going to take some time through.

Quote:
Originally Posted by contumacious
In a basement, particularly with an unsealed concrete floor, you would want to elevate the work off the floor.

Aside from flood damage or water leaks, sources of thermal differential are something to watch out for. Conservators take the thermal effects of walls on the back sides of artworks pretty seriously, and this would apply to concrete floors as well. Thermal gradients induce condensation at the coldest part of the gradient. Meanwhile, the warmest part can be dehydrated.

Last edited by bvanevery : 12-06-2017 at 07:28 PM.
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Old 12-13-2017, 03:22 AM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

After much reading, I found a 'recipe' for protecting a painting in transit. This is probably not identical to protecting a painting as it sits in an 'archive', as I believe the fellow who wrote the article, assumes that he can control the environment of the archive in various ways. The extensive 'recipe', does highlight a lot of issues that are simultaneously occurring.

Quote:
A rational design for a transport case for lightweight objects of considerable extent, such as paintings, would therefore consist of the following elements, listed from the inside out:

1. The object

2. One layer of paper for humidity buffering

3. Polyethylene film, wrapped around the object but not sealed, so that pressure change during a flight does not deform the wrapper. A reasonably well wrapped object will buffer its own relative humidity, because the air exchange will be slow during the flight.

4. Energy absorbing buffers to hold the painting physically in place.

5. An inner case to provide rigidity and also to provide the main thermal buffering. (If this case is of wood it should be coated inside with aluminium foil to prevent outgassing of acid gases).

6. Thermal insulation, typically medium density expanded polystyrene. This functions also as an absorber of knocks by sharp objects.

7. An optional lightweight outer case to enclose the polystyrene, to allow attachment of handles and messages to take care in many languages. This will also provide some visual authority, so that baggage handlers may treat the packet with respect.
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Old 12-26-2017, 01:14 AM
pschubert pschubert is offline
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

Thank you, bvanevery, for linking to my article, and for giving me the opportunity to clarify my recommendations.

First, I'd like to emphasise that the first sentence of the quoted paragraph in my article reads, "The best way to protect paintings is to make sure that none of the wrapping material touches the surface of the painting."

Now, about condensation:

All air contains a certain amount of moisture.

The amount of moisture air can hold depends on the air’s temperature. Warmer air can hold more moisture than cooler air. The more moisture in the air, the higher the relative humidity.

When warm, moist air makes contact with cooler surfaces, the moisture condenses, because the cooler air around the cooler surface doesn’t hold as much moisture as the warmer air. When the moisture condenses, it’s called condensation. When your car windows fog over, it’s a form of condensation, as it is when water collects on the outside of a chilled beverage.

There’s also a process called “vapour pressure,” which is the way humid air tries to achieve equilibrium by flowing toward drier air. This vapour pressure even forces the moisture through porous materials.

Because non-porous materials block the flow of moisture, condensation can occur on, underneath or between surfaces or layers.

Relative humidity will vary any time there are temperature fluctuations, weather changes, or air flow differences. This variance will affect artworks in situ and in storage, as well as artworks moving from one environment to another.

Wrapping artworks as described in my article permits the flow, or exchange, of varying relative humidities through the packaging, which prevents condensation from forming either on the inside of the packaging or on/in the artwork itself.


I hope this explanation is helpful. Thanks again for the chance to participate in this discussion.


Phillip Schubert, Principal
Art Squared
art-squared.com.au

Last edited by pschubert : 12-26-2017 at 01:23 AM. Reason: Fixed a typo
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Old 12-26-2017, 01:45 AM
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bvanevery bvanevery is offline
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

Thanks! After all the digging I've done on the subject, somehow your explanation of these processes is more human readable. I wasn't clear on vapor pressure, for instance. Nor the role of non-porous surfaces in causing condensation. That explains to me why hikers like to wear various things to wick moisture away from the skin.
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Old 02-06-2018, 02:32 PM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

I have two large acrylic paintings hanging up in an unheated old stone barn. I had no where to put them, and I wasn't too concerned about their longevity, so I thought it would be an interesting experiment. Over the past six years, they've been subjected to temperatures down to -20C (-4F), humidity, damp, extreme heat, mice, spiders and barn owls. There's a few cobwebs, but they still look fresh and good. I think acrylics can tolerate quite a lot of abuse, although obviously I wouldn't subject any painting of worth to this sort of barbaric treatment!
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Old 02-06-2018, 04:29 PM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

I would expect it to pick up quite a bit of dirt in that environment. Not sure I could sign off on you saying they "look fine". Have you taken them back to somewhere with real lighting and taken a look at them?

Hope you didn't get mold. Seems like you'd manage that pretty easily.

Stuff I read above would seem to say, the cold could lead to cracking or delamination. Yes they may look fine to you, but how much do you want to bet on actually moving them around to somewhere else? You might find they're fragile now.
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Old 02-07-2018, 05:22 AM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

Sure, if you looked really close up, they'd be a little bit of dirt amongst the cobwebs (nothing that couldn't be cleaned off), but these were brightly painted works of pop art, so they still glow with their original colours. There are no obvious problems with mould, cracking or delamination. I have taken them off the wall before now. Obviously I do not recommend anyone treats their paintings like this, this is just my anecdotal, but it confirms in my mind that acrylic paintings are quite resilient.
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Old 02-07-2018, 08:20 AM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zarathustra
(nothing that couldn't be cleaned off)

That's really missing the point of archiving and taking care of paintings. Cleaning an acrylic painting is not a "free" operation, it's not a kitchen countertop with some kind of impermeable "wipe off, squeaky clean" layer to it.

Quote:
it confirms in my mind that acrylic paintings are quite resilient.

Over 6 years. Which from an archiving standpoint is not much time. Well if you really wanted to experiment with accelerated aging, try leaving them in direct sun and see how they hold up.
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Old 02-07-2018, 09:11 AM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

I forgot to add that prior to the six years in the barn, these two large acrylics lived in an underground cellar in Paris for three years. Those old Haussmann building cellars are dark and humid too, so it's quite amazing that in over ten years since being painted they are still doing well.

Please understand from my previous messages, I am not sharing this as a suggested means of looking after a painting. This is the very antithesis - how NOT to look after a painting. The paintings were not precious to me, which is why I subjected them to this abuse to see how much they might withstand.
I share this anecdote, because I believe if you do respect and look after your work properly, acrylic paintings are liable to hold up well. I was trying to allay your fears somewhat, not get you wound up!
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Old 02-07-2018, 09:52 AM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zarathustra
I share this anecdote, because I believe if you do respect and look after your work properly, acrylic paintings are liable to hold up well.

Whereas I say 6 years is not a basis for deciding such things. All you actually know is you haven't immediately destroyed anything. And that you can live with a layer of grime because your paintings were brighty colored to begin with. You've done a kind of accelerated aging test, but we don't really know what damage has been caused. I suppose the forensics of determining damage "before it's very obvious that it has happened" is not something I've studied up. I do know that if someone took it upon themselves to clean the grime off, it would alter the original work. I am not sure by how much, but GOLDEN did put out at least 1 paper on the effects of various kinds of cleaning.

Last edited by bvanevery : 02-07-2018 at 10:03 AM.
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Old 02-07-2018, 02:28 PM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

I'm more familiar with oil paints than acrylics, and obviously there is a lot more information about discolouration, fading and effects of restoration and cleaning. I remember reading that certain early acrylic paintings from the 50's have suffered, but the paint has changed since that time, and the longevity is unknown, but thought to be good.

I don't pretend my little experiment is scientific, it is just something personal. I haven't examined the painting surface in microscopic detail. I have an eye for colour and do not see any loss of vibrancy, but as you say it hasn't been left out in the sun for any extended period of time.

While we should all take the best of care with our materials and techniques to ensure longevity, I think it's important to accept that very few paintings will ever be conserved by the likes of a professional in a museum. All paintings will eventually erode and disintegrate as with everything else in life, it's just a matter of when not if.
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Old 02-07-2018, 05:05 PM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zarathustra
II think it's important to accept that very few paintings will ever be conserved by the likes of a professional in a museum. All paintings will eventually erode and disintegrate as with everything else in life, it's just a matter of when not if.

I think if one decides that one cares, and that there's a rational, considered reason to care, then one has to follow through. An engineer or product designer doesn't just throw up his/her hands and leave things to Fate. One goes through the drill of "What are the expected case uses? What are the most likely risks? What can I prepare for, and what can I not?"

I'm planning for "stupid descendants". I couldn't even win an argument the other month with my Mom about leaving a watercolor in full sunlight! At least my watercolor isn't there anymore. I tried to get her to put something more hardy there, like a ceramic work with earth tone pigments. But it came down to the impeccable reasoning of "well I'm putting X there because it was there before for years and I liked it there". The archival concern was totally like water off a duck's back. *

Descendants are going to be stupid. They are going to make arbitrary decisions about where they hang stuff. They are going to move things around like they do any DIY household move and not take special precautions. They are going to leave things in attics and basements with temperature extremes. They aren't going to follow advice even when knowledgeable people tell them what to do. They probably aren't going to respect anything that they haven't paid tens of thousands of dollars of their own money for. Maybe with luck they'll eventually sell some heirloom to someone for real money, then it'll be in the hands of someone more responsible for awhile. But descendents basically are going to suck and be stupid people about artwork. You can probably count on them hanging something in their house and not a barn, but that's about it.

Given those realities, I am trying to plan accordingly and make stuff that has a better chance of enduring those slings and arrows. On that basis I'm probably not going to go with Aluminum Composite Material, for instance. Not drop-kickable enough in the face of stupid descendants.

* This I think is a general aspect of Human Nature, and goes quite beyond my Mom. I can run through a hundred contingencies as part of a rational process, and arrive at an engineering result. But when I try to "brain dump" to a person who hasn't thought about such things at all, and isn't the slightest bit invested in thinking about such things, it's a familiar pattern. "Yeah yeah, yeah yeah, uh huh, sure I agree with you." Then 20 minutes later they say something further, that indicates they couldn't have possibly agreed with you, or even remotely understood what you were saying to them. You're watching how slowly someone else's brain works, on a subject they don't care about. If there's even the slightest evidence that they cared at all, or thought about it at all.

Listening without comprehension.

Probably the best way to protect a painting would be to put a huge price tag on it, because otherwise, most people have no reason to ascribe value to Art. It's not like Mom doesn't have any paintings, she has a modest collection that fills up walls in her house. But does she care about those paintings lasting longer than her own lifespan? Clearly not.

Last edited by bvanevery : 02-07-2018 at 05:17 PM.
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Old 02-08-2018, 03:03 AM
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Re: preventing condensation, long term storage

I understand your frustrations, especially if you have an analytical mind, but you also have to look at it from the other side of the fence. It doesn't matter how passionate we are about our work, some family members or descendants will have very little or no interest in it. It is not too fair to judge them for it, that is simply the way of things.

If you want to give your work a chance at longevity, the best thing you can do is to sell as much as you, for the best price you can, to various clients in a mix of different countries.

Throughout history wonderful works of art have been deliberately burnt, destroyed, left to rot, stolen, hidden, forgotten. I have some well executed antique paintings from artists who barely even get a footnote in history. They were clearly well trained and art was their passion and calling in life; they must have had great dreams and aspirations. Other artists I admire were very well known in their day, but scarcely ever heard of today.

Consider getting the best possible scans or photographs of your work, and uploading them to one or more cloud services, but more importantly enjoy the moment of creation because that is what it is all about. Hang your work up and appreciate it in your lifetime. Anything beyond is a bonus.
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