Buyer Beware when Purchasing Artwork that’s been FRAMED!

Just the other day, a woman called me about selling the famous rare large civil war era antique map Arnold’s  “City of  Washington (DC)”.   She purchased the map several years ago from a relatively new gallery in Washington D.C.  Interested in seeing it, I immediately asked if she can bring it over  to my studio to which she replied “Sure!”.

Given the style of framing, I instantly know the selling gallery and told her I need to open the frame to examine the condition and details of the map to arrive at a fair market value. She understood and gave me the OK to remove the map from the frame.  Usually, authenticity is detected by looking at various characteristics of the map to see if it was genuine or a fake.  These signs include watermarks in the paper, authentic aging colors and relief, and genuineness of tone and colors of the ink.

After spending about 10 minutes attempting to remove the map from the frame,  I was horrified at what I saw.  It shocked me that the gallery DRYMOUNTED the map to a backing board.  Drymounting involves the application of heat mounting (via a acidic and damaging glassine tissue) or cold mounting through glue to PERMANENTLY AFFIX the map to a backing board.  It has been universally demonstrated that drymounting, gluing or other means of affixing an item to a backing board will cause immediate and long lasting damage and a significant drop in the value of the item.

This type of mounting can, but not always, allow an unethical gallery to hide or conceal traits of a forged, modern reproduced map that has absolutely NO VALUE.

A couple of side notes. The seller and I noticed that the framer used masking tape to seal the edges of the glass to matting and, secondly, the mat was glued around the edges of the map.  This could be a deliberate attempt to cover the edges of a modern copy.

This gallery sells historical documents, maps and other artifacts at inflated prices to unknowing customers.  Sometimes, people see a beautifully framed item they believe would look great in a certain room.  They want to immediately buy it.  Sometimes, impulse buying can lead to irrational buying decisions.

If you are going to sell these items at high prices, at least use the proper framing methods to protect and preserve them for many years as should be expected from a responsible, established gallery.  Unless there is a motive for not doing so.

At my urging, the customer approached the gallery dealer and inquired about a refund.  Although the gallery had every excuse from “our regular framer was out” (Really?  how do you know the date this item was sold or framed?) to “I will speak with the gallery owner”.   How about:  “I am sorry and I take full responsibility and you will be given an immediate refund.”  Take ownership, deliberate or not and change your ways.  As harsh as that may sound, there is NO advantage to selling deception.

If the customer notifies me of the end result, hopefully good, I will report back.

As a collector of a variety of historical items, such as documents, autographs, antique maps and prints and ancient and old coins and currency, nothing bothers me more than seeing someone with ignorant and/or malicious intentions destroy these rare items of beautiful and rare artwork.  These items, once damaged, destroyed or lost, can never be replaced.  As custodians, we appreciate the unique rarity and beauty that other more modern, mass produced artwork cannot provide.

As temporary curators, it is up to us to care for and protect these artifacts for future generations so others may learn and understand the past. Protecting these items will do just that.  Imagining the hands that touched these various items is enough to send chills down your spine.

Nothing can be more stressing than overpaying for art that has been damaged through improper framing.

The real positive in this scenario is that the buyer brought this up to the gallery’s attention and hopefully, some recourse will be given to the customer.

Stay tuned!



Categories: Conservation Framing, custom framing, Document Framing, Framing, Gallery Framing, Historical Autographs, Interior Design, Interior Designer, Museum Framing. Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.