Can Fine Art Be Reframed?

Even high quality custom picture frames can break or wear down over time, especially if they’re very, very old. If you have art in frames that have seen better days, you may have considered having it reframed.

But, you might be concerned about the art itself if it’s old or valuable. The good news is that yes, you can have fine art reframed safely. However, it’s not the kind of thing most people would really want to DIY, and it’s advisable to have it done professionally.

The best options can depend on the art itself — its medium, its period and style, and its age.

Why Reframe Old Art?

There are a number of reasons why the owners of an art piece may make the decision to have it reframed. Some of these relate to art preservation, but others can be purely a matter of personal preference.

Styles Change

Over time, cultural preferences shift, and design styles change from decade to decade. A kitchen that was stylish in 1977 is noticeably dated today. Maybe you chose the existing frame when you had a different interior design style, or maybe it’s in its original frame, but it doesn’t quite match.

Ornate wood carving and gold leaf might not be at home in a sleek contemporary home with clean lines and glossy surfaces. Brassy faux gold finishes are very ‘90s, and can look dated. Super shiny chrome might scream “1980s.” If it doesn’t gel with your style, it’s okay to replace the frame.

The Frame Doesn’t Suit the Artwork

While coordination with the room’s decor is a concern with art framing, there’s also the matter of choosing frames that complement the art itself. Part of it is stylistic, matching decor styles of its time and place. There’s also the aesthetic element of choosing a frame that emphasises and heightens the piece, but does not distract from it. A big, gaudy golden frame could overwhelm a small, delicate watercolor.

A simple change of frame can breathe new life into a pie

The Framing Could Be Hurting the Art Piece

If you didn’t have the frame made yourself, you may not know what it’s made from, how old it is, or whether it’s appropriate for the art inside it. For example, many cardboard backing materials are quite acidic, and will slowly eat away at canvas and other materials. Not all glass is treated for UV protection, and the existing frame’s glass front piece could be letting damaging UV radiation in that causes fading and yellowing.

An Old Frame Could Be Unsafe

This is more common than you might think, especially with larger, heavier pieces. An old frame could fall if it breaks apart, causing untreated glass to shatter. A painted frame from the mid-20th century or earlier could have paint that contains lead, a known environmental hazard. Safety standards have gotten better over time, so you’re far less likely to have these issues with newer frames.

The Importance of Ambient Conditions

One of the most important things is the surrounding environment. Fine art can be very sensitive to temperature, humidity, pressure, and other factors, which impacts what kind of framing does the best job keeping it preserved and safe.

Even with reframing, it’s essential to ensure that it’s stored in the right conditions. Most art museums keep their relative humidity at around 50%, and temperature around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Fluctuations in the ambient humidity and temperature are the biggest causes of cracking patterns in the paint, which can ruin fine art pieces and require costly expert restoration.

Should I Fix the Old Frame Instead?

This really depends. Not all antique picture frames have as much value as you might think, even those with quality wood or real gold leaf on them. If you’re not sure, ask the framing company to appraise the value of the old frame.

Most of the time, it’s easier and more cost effective to have a new high quality frame created instead. This also gives you the opportunity to choose a frame you really love, and that complements both the artwork and your own interior design in the room in which you’re displaying it.