The Art Buyer’s Guide to Rhode Island

Read on to discover your new favorite artist, gallery or curator, as well as expert tips on framing, etiquette and collecting.


Frame of Mind

Geoff Gaunt, owner of Providence Picture Frame and Dryden Galleries, shares some tips on how to preserve a work of art.

Stick with the independent frame shop. The big box stores’ 60 percent off coupons are enticing, but your art is usually sent to a faraway facility for framing. “You don’t have to come to us, but please go to an independent frame shop,” Gaunt says. “We do all of our framing here.”

You don’t have to break the bank for family photos. “You hear a lot of these buzzwords, ‘museum this, archival that,’ and that can be intimidating. But not every piece deserves or requires that,” he says. Using a heat press, a framer can dry-mount a family photograph on acid-free board and it’ll be “perfectly archival,” Gaunt says.

Keep resale in mind for original works on paper. “If you have something of any value — sentimental or monetary — you want to frame it in such a way that it can be unframed down the road and no one will know,” Gaunt says. For works on paper, Providence Picture Frame employs Japanese hinges, a museum-quality method that’s 2,000 years old. Using a wheat starch paste and thin mulberry paper, framers affix the art to the backboard so it doesn’t shift in its frame. The method is gentle on artwork and, unlike mounting tape, un-sticks with a couple of drops of distilled water.

Reconsider flattening out the ripples in your watercolor. “You don’t want to flatten them,” Gaunt says. “That’s something we try to explain to people. It’s the booby prize of having great art. Yes, it can be done, but the cost is losing nearly all the value.”

To matte, or not to matte? “A lot of people think matting is just for decor, but it creates an air gap between the art and the glass,” Gaunt says. “The first goal for us is to make it safe. We want to make sure the art can’t actually touch the glass.” If a customer doesn’t like the look of a matte, Gaunt says framers can put spacers in the lip of the frame to create some breathing room.

Glass might not be necessary. You don’t need it for paintings, says Gaunt, because the oil and acrylic paints can withstand UV rays. But for works on paper, including watercolor, drawings and photography, buyers should consider anti-UV glass. Unless a work will be placed near a bright window, it needn’t be framed with non-glare glass. If you use LED lights and have a home with new windows, “you can get the least expensive glass that’s available,” Gaunt says.

Don’t frame to the room. “It’s the biggest design mistake,” Gaunt says. “We frame for the actual artwork. We’ve got about 1,000 frame samples on our wall. We might be able to pick ten that really work with the art. Then, we get a sense of [the customer’s] style and we can narrow it down to two or three.”

What if I hate it? “Framing can be expensive and it can be a little nerve-wracking,” Gaunt says. “Honestly, if it weren’t my company, it would be a lot of money for me. It is an investment.” To be sure a frame works in your space, Gaunt says you should ask for a sample of the frame to take home. Another tip: Have your framer cut a piece of cardboard in the frame size to test for scale. –C.N.

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