Framing is a hugely important part of displaying, protecting, and even adding value to an artwork. But how do you find the right frame for your most beloved pieces?
London-based framer John Jones is an industry leader, using pioneering new technologies and conservation techniques to preserve artworks, without compromising on aesthetics. One of the first framers to work to museum standards, they've worked with pieces by artists Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, manufactured canvasses for David Hockney, and conserved original Banksy stencils. We asked CEO Matt Jones to share his key tips for collectors
1. Start by asking questions
When it comes to framing, explains Matt Jones, it's best to start with the basics: "We try not to create too many rules about how a work should be framed; it’s more important to ask questions. What is the work? What's its history? How has it been framed in the past? And how are you going to live with the work?" Travel is a particularly important consideration: "If we know that the work is going to be hung somewhere with fluctuations in climate and temperature, then we can adapt the design of the frame interior to ensure it protects the artwork."
2. Consider the rest of your collection
As well as considering the climate and temperature in which a work will be hung, Jones also considers the collectors' individual needs. "I consider what their preferences are, as well as how the frame will sit with the other works in their collection. Framing is a collaborative journey and, if you understand that, you can really produce something quite amazing. The aim is to walk into a room and be immediately wowed by a work — if you aren't, you've framed it wrong."
3. Use a new frame to transform an old work
"I really do think framing is a journey that transforms an artwork," explains Jones. "For an artist, a frame can completely change the way their artwork is seen: done to a high level, it can make a piece come to life. For auction houses, reframing an old work can transform its appearance, increasing its chances of successful sale. Framing it a transformative process; it can really add value."
4. Choose a framer you can trust
A good frame can protect an artwork, improve its appearance and often, explains Jones, make it more likely to sell for a higher price at auction. As such, it's vital to entrust your work to someone with significant expetise: "Whether you're a collector or an artist, it's important that you feel a connection to the framer you work with and build a relationship based on trust and understanding."
5. Combine framing with conservation
For Jones, it's essential that framing and conservation are done together — and he has some scary statistics to support his theory: "We have our own conservation studio here at John Jones and, alarmingly, 80% of the works we're presented to have to come in for treatment following damage incurred by previous poor framing. To avoid this, we work with a conservationist who accompanies the production of the frame from design to build, ensuring the long-term protection of the work has been considered at every stage of production."
6. Use a frame to create the perfect microclimate
The right frame can create an environment that's perfect for preserving your favorite artwork, explains Jones. "If an artwork is going to be displayed in a hot climate, it's often a good idea to seal the frame, which can also prevent insects from entering. We're also able add materials to the frame that help to control humidity; for some works, we use mount board with micro-chamber technology, which protects your work from anything like damp or wet paint. You can even add a humidity reader to the back of the frame, which will allow you to check levels at any time." Of course, no two artworks are the same: "The microclimate you need will be different for every artwork — from a painting, to a work on paper, to a photograph," adds Jones, advising collectors approach every work individually.
7. Find a glaze that suits your needs
Glaze is also an important aspect of the finished frame, Jones continues: "When selecting a glaze it's important to consider the level of UV protection you require, as well as the quality of any low level reflection. Safety and weight are also concerns: while heavy glazing is amazing for visibility, it can make shipping a work more complicated. Cost is also a concern; glazing is expensive, so it's important to consider your budget."
8. Think about where the framed artwork will hang
"It’s essential for a framer to understand how the client is going to live with the work," says Jones, who begins each project by asking where the artwork will be hung. "Often we build frames to suit a specific space; on other occasions, we might work with a client to find the right space for the artwork." Changing the environment around the artwork can have a significant impact on its preservation: "In the past, we've suggesed that radiators be moved, or that windows be sealed or fitted with a UV film," Jones explains.
9. Avoid outdated materials and techniques
"In the past, framers didn't have the same knowledge we do today and industry standards were different," says Jones. Have a work with an old frame? It's worth checking for materials such as wood pulp, which can become acidic over time. "A lot of damage is caused by mounting mateirals," explains Jones. "The MDF backboards that were common in the past offer great stability and support, but chemicals in the material can damage works. Similarly, old glazing techniques mean that a frame's UV protection can deteriorate over time, leaving artworks vulnerable to sun damage. Other risk factors to look out for include poor hinging, which can cause tearing, and materials such as Blu Tac — we've removed a significant amount from the backs of works!"
10. See a high-quality frame as an investment
Though finding a frame that protects your artwork may mean you end up spending more in the short term, the rewards can be significant. "When we first started framing Banksy prints, they could be bought for under £100; now, they're worth £10,000, but the cost of the frame hasn't changed. Framers are there to safeguard the value of your works and ensure that pieces you love remain unharmed."
Pic: Matt Jones designing a bespoke frame at the John Jones workshop. © John Jones London