Whilst some accidental damages can neither be foreseen nor prevented, there are some steps that can be taken by the owner of a collection to increase the longevity of his or her art works.
AXA ART is pleased to be able to offer, through this basic guide and at any time in the future, advice to collectors on all aspects of caring for their art collection. This does not replace the advice of a conservator.
If you need any further advice on specific areas of preventive and active conservation AXA ART’s in-house art experts are happy to assist you. For specific advice on plastic objects or acrylic paintings please consult our relating brochures.
- At the moment of purchase gather as much information on the object’s condition as possible.
- Avoid direct sunlight; use northerly light, UV-absorbent glazing, and spotlight with UV filters.
- When presenting works on outside walls or in stairwells check if their rear side is sufficiently isolated against dirt, dust and humidity.
- When hanging objects inside avoid spaces behind doors, in busy corridors, or close to furniture and shelves.
- Always provide for unhindered back-ventilation of an art object, but avoid draughts.
- Keep your objects clear of radiators, fireplaces, candles and moisture sources.
- Never store art works unpacked in acidic papers, cardboard, bubble wrap foil or impregnated textiles. For a longer period never store near to heaters.
- Store light-sensitive paintings in appropriate darkness, but not less than 5 LUX to avoid blackening or “fall-out” of some ancient types of paint.
All art objects are sensitive to the influences of temperature and humidity fluctuations as well as light. The following table provides you with an indication of the values that should prevail during all seasons.
Form of work / material
Relative humidity in %
Temperature in °C/FH
Illuminance in Lux
Optimum for most materials
Varies, stability is best for all
Oil and Acrylic Paintings on wood or canvas
150-200 max. 500 short term
Works on paper or parchment
45-55 +/- 5 Grad
Glass, painting on glass**
Ivory, bone, leather
250 if painted
Design / Plastic Objects
Lacquered or fair wood and inlays (ivory, metal etc): 150-200
* Depending on type of photographic material, other values may apply. Ask your conservator or an AXA Art Expert.
** For so-called “sick” glass, relative humidity should not exceed 45%.
If your collection includes a variety of materials such as furniture, design, paintings, works on paper, photography, metal sculptures, etc. the climate should be geared to the most sensitive material.
- Use ultraviolet-light-filtering glass to protect fragile works from light.
- Use special framing to avoid the diffuse of pigments.
- Backing and matting should always be composed of high quality neither acid nor alkaline pH neutral materials.
- Be sure of ample separation between work and both frame and glazing.
- When cleaning the glass protecting the work use a soft cloth and never spray cleaning agent on the glass as it can seep under the frame.
- Most photography can be stored in paper enclosures; some can be kept in special kinds of plastic enclosures.
- Storage in plastic enclosures is not suitable for transparencies from the 1950s, film-based negatives, hand-colored prints, prints with surface damage as well as glass or metal based photographs.
- The most delicate part of bronze is patina.
- For cleaning you can use a dust rag, soft shoe brush, or duster.
- For heavy cleaning use neutral soap with water and soft cloth. Wipe clean, dry with the rag then allow sculpture to air completely dry.
- Do not use any cleanser or solvent to clean your sculpture since they will scratch surfaces.
- If your bronze sculpture is suited for waxing, you can generally use furniture wax.
- Check regularly for traces of woodworm. Sawdust underneath the furniture can be a sign of active infestation.
- If furniture has active infestation it should be isolated immediately by placing it in a large sealed bag and fumigation will be necessary.
- Either use a humidifier or put a glass of water (and lavender blossoms) inside or underneath a cabinet or chest to avoid drying.
- Avoid placing antique furniture on floor heating.
- Direct sunlight can lead to discoloring and shrinkage.
- Once a year use a coating of good paste wax to maintain your furniture.
- Dry dust with a soft cloth for routine cleaning.
- Glass and Ceramic objects are extremely fragile and can easily crack or break on impact.
- Use both hands to lift objects and avoid picking them up by their handles or spouts, which may not be well attached.
- When stacking items for storage, place a cushion of soft material between each piece.
- Avoid storage or display where there are extreme or rapid changes in temperature and humidity.
- Be cautious using cleaning cloths, they can snag on rough surfaces or poorly attached decoration.
Above image: Rare cinnabar lacquer dish, Ming Dynasty, © AXA ART. Photo by Wolfgang von Brauchitsch.
This announcement is advisory in nature and is provided for informational purposes only. It is offered as a resource to be used by insurance advisors and insureds in maintaining an appropriate loss prevention program. No liability of any kind is assumed by AXA Art Insurance Corporation by reason of the information contained in this announcement.