Preventing Autumn
May 7, 2014 10:28 AM   Subscribe

I just bought a lovely piece of abstract art, yay. It's already falling apart, boo.

It consists of canvas on a conventional, square stretcher, tea stains, and gold leaf... and was apparently made by a complete idiot. In addition to not being able to follow repeated, simple text instructions to simply park out front of my building, she decided to deliver it to me on a blustery day, completely unwrapped, after a 200' walk.

Unsurprisingly, the gold leaf is already peeling off the edges.

What can I use to try to put a protective layer over the gold leaf? Something glossy but not too thick, preferably, so the uncoated canvas can absorb it and stay matte.
posted by IAmBroom to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
I would ask her to repair it for you, or provide you with another piece.
posted by nanook at 10:31 AM on May 7, 2014 [19 favorites]

Can you enclose it in a lucite (plexiglass) box? Sometimes I see museums do that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:32 AM on May 7, 2014

Yes, ask the artist to repair it for you. If possible, you could ask her to do the work at your place (so you won't have to deal with transporting it).
posted by chowflap at 11:05 AM on May 7, 2014

It sounds like neither of you noticed at the time; have you contacted her?

I'm an artist and I would be mortified if I had personally delivered a piece of work that turned out to be damaged. I would either offer to fix it for free ASAP or offer you an exchange or refund if that was your preference.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:05 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seems like you'd be wanting to put some sort of adhesive under the gold leaf, otherwise there's nothing to hold it down. How was it fastened in place before the wind incident? Gold leaf is not intended to flap free. It can't really support itself.

And before attempting a repair, yes, just ask the artist to repair it.
posted by BillMcMurdo at 11:09 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Nope, I noticed as she handed it to me, but she had already proven herself completely clueless. I was on the edge of abandoning this sale when she finally walked up. Not really interested in trying to talk to her again.

BillMcMurdo, good point on "adhesive under the gold leaf". Some tests with canvas and spray adhesive are in order.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:47 AM on May 7, 2014

There's an adhesive specifically for gold leaf.
posted by jamaro at 11:59 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't want to put anything over the gold leaf - it will dim the shine. Gold leaf is very delicate and you don't want to touch it with bare fingers because the oil in your hands won't do it a lot of good. I also am an artist and would be very upset of one of my pieces was filling part as you describe. I understand why you don't want to deal with her but that's generally your best bet.
posted by leslies at 1:37 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't use spray adhesive, or you'll get it all over the place. For the gold leaf, you'll want to use a small brush and a thin (not gloppy) glue or decoupage medium. Don't touch the leaf with your fingers; use a clean, dry brush to smooth it down.
(I'm another artist who would be mortified if a piece I made was falling apart, though I understand you don't want to contact her.)
posted by chowflap at 1:52 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Don't touch the leaf with your fingers; use a clean, dry brush to smooth it down.

I'll have to be tremendously careful, even by gold-leaf standards: the leaf is intentionally textured, with little mountain ridges throughout. (And, FWIW, I have worked with gold leaf before. Closed room, averted breathing, etc...)

And my thought on the spray adhesive was to soak it gently from the opposite side, hoping to tack the leaf down from underneath - but only if it doesn't change the look of the canvas.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:14 PM on May 7, 2014

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