Collecting works on paper is a great entry into collecting fine art, especially in the past decade. Collecting works on paper has become very desirable because pieces by emerging artists can be acquired at low price points and there is a lot of innovative work being done in the medium. Collectors are attracted to the uniqueness of works on paper, as opposed to prints, and to the experimental nature, exploration and story-telling through the intimacy of paper.

Works of art on paper include drawings (in any media), collages and other paper-based methods, but not prints (prints are made by drawing a stone or metal surface, not on paper or canvas, from which an image is printed a number of times).

Works on paper are delicate and can be easily damaged, so proper care is a must. When unframed, works on paper must be handled using cotton gloves to protect the paper’s ph-balance from the natural oils in your skin. Poor framing and exposure to strong light are also issues. The paper should be framed using acid-free materials because the acid from regular paper or cardboard will eat into the paper and stain it. You can choose between museum-quality, UV retardant glass or Plexiglas to reduce fading. Cleaning agents should never be used on the glass or Plexiglas because it removes the UV protection and the paper should never be in direct contact with glass; use a spacer. Once framed, a work on paper should not be hung in very humid areas which will cause fungus to grow, this is known as foxing (small brown spots). Also environments that are too dry or cold will cause the paper to become brittle and crack and dust and pollution are also variables that can damage all works of art.

In regards to lighting, if at all possible one should avoid halogen and florescent lights and use tungsten light instead. Works on paper should never be rolled in tubes for mailing or rolled for extended periods of storage. They should be stored flat, between acid-free tissue paper or glassine.

If properly taken care of, works on paper should retain their value and can potentially increase the integrity and synchronicity of a collection overall.

Lauren Gentile, Assistant Director and Director of Sales at Irvine Contemporary is a 2007 graduate of the Sotheby’s Institute in London. She specializes in the economics in the international art market, with expertise in valuation, art advisory services and art collection management. Ms. Gentile holds a Master’s in Art Business degree from SIA London, where she wrote her thesis on fine art as an alternative asset class and fine art investing; the work focused on the recent phenomena of fine art funds. She also has a thorough background in art history, and holds two B.A. degrees in art history and international studies from DePaul University in Chicago. She has studied art history, Italian and German at The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, the Goethe Institute, and the University of Florence.