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The Glassine Fallacy

Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 in Non-Fiction

Art Conservation Services of Sarasota and members of its staff have been practicing for over 35 years in the conservation and restoration of fine art.  We have had several incidences of problems with glassine over the years.  As a result of this, we do not use glassine for wrapping oil paintings or mixed media works of art.  However, we do use it as an interleaf in paper born art.  Let me elaborate.

Oil paintings can take years to cure and stabilize.  The risk of using glassine on an oil painting more than sixty years old is minimal, however one may not know if these paintings may have been recently varnished or varnished improperly, and the surface may still become unpredictable when placed in an extreme environment.  A painting that is only five or ten years old is even more likely to be affected by heat and/or pressure.  These are environmental concerns that often occur during moving, crating, and storage in unairconditioned spaces and are dangerous to paintings even when exposed for a short period of time.  We have had one episode of an entire collection of important and valuable contemporary abstract oil paintings damaged by glassine adhesion while being transported across country in an unairconditioned truck during the summer.

Mixed media paintings are even more vulnerable to heat and pressure than oil paintings.  I have seen paintings executed in a combination of oil and alkaloid resins that have NEVER cured, even after twenty years.  Because these paintings appear dry to the touch when they are hanging in your client’s air conditioned home, a layman would never suspect that in reality these little globs and layers of paint are “plastic,” i.e. movable beneath the surface skin.  This lack of curing is not detectable until the paintings are in a closed and heated space like that of a crate or a truck.  Glassine should NEVER be used on mixed media works of art.

Another medium that is highly sensitive to heat and pressure is encaustic painting, which is wax and oil paint combined in various proportions.  This medium is becoming popular again with contemporary artists and is particularly susceptible to reactivation by heat.  Many people, including the very owners, have no idea of the composition or method of production of their art works, and this is very likely true in the case of your moving contractor.  Glassine should NEVER be used to wrap encaustic art.

Still another category is collage, which can be composed of EVERYTHING and ANYTHING glued or stuck together with ANYTHING sticky.  Combinations of glue, resin, varnish, paint of various kinds, and materials like paper, cloth, glass, metal, plastic, sand, stone, objects etc. create a surface which is not homogeneous and is totally unpredictable under the extreme conditions that one would find during packing, moving, and storage.

It should be emphasized to your representatives and to the industry that moving and storage constitute an extreme environment for art objects of any sort.  They must be viewed in this regard.

The solution to the problem is the use of single sided silicone release paper.  Nothing sticks to silicone-coated polyester.  Even if the surface of a painting becomes sticky, the silicone can be peeled off without pulling the skin of the paint with it.

The problem is in the handling of the silicone that is of course very slippery.  No tape will stick to it.  For this reason, we use single sided silicone Mylar from Talas.  We tack this single sided silicone coated Mylar to construction paper or some other common packaging material with double sided tape, creating a single side silicone coated “blanket” in which we then wrap the art.  It is important however, that if possible, the “blanket” be stretched tautly so that it does not touch the surface of the art.

Sources for single sided silicone and double sided tape are:

DuPont Corporation

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