Debbie S. Jackson Wagers wrote recently with this question:
“Could you address framing original artworks? It can be so expensive to frame. What are some solutions which are simple and fairly inexpensive, yet professional? Should unframed be an option?”
I know this is a concern for many artists, and I’ll admit right off the bat that I don’t have the answer. Of course . . . it depends upon the work! Works on paper should always be framed. However, I must say my peace as a former museum curator and educator: FRAME YOUR WORK! Framing not only makes the work look more professional by adding the finishing touch, framing actually protects the artwork. The Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s and Hard-Edge Painters of the 1960s exhibited their canvases without frames for aesthetic reasons. However, they’re a nightmare for curators and a conservator’s dream. Having something around the edge protects even the sturdiest canvases from nicks and dings.
In my opinion, it is fairly easy to tell when an artist doesn’t use frames for the sole purpose of saving money. The work looks cheaper (not less expensive–cheaper). If you’re not going to frame your work, make sure it’s for the right reasons.
By the way, well-known artist Faith Ringgold was concerned about the cost of shipping canvases (with or without frames) early in her career. This led to her soft paintings and eventually the quilts she has become known for.
Image: Faith Ringgold, The Purple Quilt, 1986. Acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed, pieced fabric border, 91 x 72 inches. Private Collection. (c) The Artist.