NEW YORK (AP). – Temperatures getting a little uncomfortable? Your artwork and antiques are probably feeling the humidity as much as you are. Paintings and works of art on paper expand and contract in response to changes in temperature and humidity, say experts with Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. That can cause surface distortions, flaking paint, growth of mold, staining or decay. It’s not only the summer months that pose a threat to your most cherished pieces, either. Furniture and gilded frames can dry and shrink during the winter, while wood absorbs moisture when it’s humid. If the gesso primer layer beneath your frame isn’t thick enough to flex with the expansion and contraction of the wood, then it will flake and detach.

Chubb gives these tips to protect your art from deterioration:
  • Keep the temperature and humidity in your home as constant as possible, around 60 to 80 degrees and 55 to 65 percent relative humidity. Use an air conditioner in the summer and a humidifier throughout the winter.
  • Keep art out of direct sunlight. Ultraviolet light will cause severe and often irreversible damage to art, especially paper, textiles and photographs. Shut off all lights when the room is not being used and keep curtains or shades drawn.
  • Never hang artwork or a valuable object over a fireplace. Heat, smoke and ash can easily ruin them.
  • Do not store fine art in basements or attics. These areas are prone to dramatic temperature changes, flooding and leaks. If possible, create an art closet with horizontal racks and a locked door. Wrap and store framed artwork face to back, in a vertical position.
  • Frame all art, especially paper, textiles and photographs, with museum-quality materials, and hire a recommended art hanger. Shatter-resistant fronts can shield damaging UV rays and other exposures, while corrugated polypropylene backings protect against water-absorption. A professional art hanger, meanwhile, is more likely to use the proper hardware and structural supports than a general contractor.
  • Install water alert sensors in areas of your home susceptible to water damage. These areas include above ceiling trays, underneath washers and dryers and radiators.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.  /   By: Erin Conroy, AP Writer