Y'all, I'm terrible at maintenance-related tasks. I don't find zen in cleaning. I love the idea of having a beautiful yard, but could never keep up with gardening as a hobby. I prefer "projects," tasks you can deep dive into and then move on. I think that's part of the appeal of art collecting. I can research a choice to death (or not), but once the piece is in my possession, there's not much required other than hanging it and admiring it. I guess there's some dusting required, but even that you could avoid for quite a while before anyone noticed.
Unfortunately, I discovered a few years ago that in some cases, a little more attention IS required.
I can't find any better pictures of it, but I purchased the above pastel nude from The Art League back in 2012 at a really affordable art sale. It was done by Pat Barron, a local artist who retired and left a number of pieces to The Art League. The piece itself was not expensive; I can't remember exactly, but definitely under $100. But it's one of the only piece I've ever taken to a legit framer, which wasn't cheap.
It hung on that wall in my previous apartment's bedroom. It made me really happy.
This apartment was English basement style, so half underground. And it was just outside DC, which, if you didn't know, was built on a swamp. It gets really hot and humid in the summer here. The apartment had a couple window AC units, but got pretty unbearable my first summer there. When I contacted my landlord about it, he asked whether I was using the dehumidifier he left. Oops. I thought that was just to help the new paint dry, so I had stuck it in a closet shortly after I moved in. When I got that back out, life improved significantly.
But when we moved out last year, I made a horrifying discovery that I'm embarrassed to admit here. When I took down that painting, the back was covered in mold. I can only assume that it must have sprouted in those first couple of horribly humid months, and continued to grow from there. I was completely grossed out, and the whole thing seemed unsalvageable to me, so I ended up dumping it.
There are very few things I regret about my art collection. Even as my taste evolves, I enjoy looking back on the pieces I've acquired over the years. I haven't always made the best framing choices, but eh, I can live with that. But I really do regret not taking the time to check on this piece and keep it in good condition. Fortunately our current house has much better climate and humidity control, but if ever I'm hanging art in a muggy space again, I will absolutely be checking on it from time to time. If you've got art in your bathroom, basement or other damp/stuffy space, I highly recommend you take it down and inspect the back every few months. Just to be safe.
Collectors, have you ever lost a piece of art due to poor maintenance? What happened?
Readers, I'm always looking for more of these quick tips. They can be about anything related to art collecting: finding art, purchasing art, hanging art, living with art... you get the idea. If you have a one you can share, please shoot me a note from the Contact page.