Dry Mounting Limited Editions

Feb 11, 2004
Chesterfield Missouri
You were all so helpful the first time around I thought I'd steal some more of your knowledge!

I'm purchasing a limited edition(100)print from a popular St. Louis artist. This is a hand water-colored print.

He typically sells this print preframed. I ordered the print unframed, the artist said he would be glad to "dry mount" the piece for me!

When I told him we would never dry mount a valuable limited edition print, he advised "his customers would never understand why the print was wrinkled."

The artist told me that he has donated a few of these copies to charity auctions and they have sold for between $2000 - $3000.

I'm pretty sure this is an old subject for you experts but please help me understand all of the issues involved here.
It is normally considered by our profession that dry mounting a Limited Edition Print ruins the value or at least lowers it.

If the artist him/her self sells the art that way, and prefers it that way, then you are purchasing what the artist intended.

I personally have issues with "Value" when it comes to this sort of thing. Art is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. If people are buying the art for $2000 then it's worth $2000 dry mounted. It is not up to me to say "Yeah, but if it wasn't dry mounted it would be worth $4000." I just don't totally buy into that argument.

"Well it might of been worth more...."

The Russians "MIGHT" have made it to the Moon first.

I would check the value from an outside source and see what comes up.
Drymounting is usually considered irreversible. Doing something to a piece of art that is irreversible is usually frowned upon. The wrinkle is that the artist themself has specified drymounting as a standard for the edition, so by not having it drymounted it will not conform to the artists standard for the edition.
In instances such as this I will usually defer to the artist, but I might like it in writing that they are the ones recommending the process.

I have a number of photographers that have me drymount their work. They are fully aware of the down side of the process, but since they air-dry their photos, there is no way that they will ever lie flat otherwise, and that presentation is extreemly important to them. Many of them present their work in gallery shows with no glazing as well. They know the risks and they call the shots.

Whatever processes they choose to employ to get to the final presentation is part of the art and as long as that process is consistent thruout the edition it is valid regardless of its archival reference.

Besides, it insures plenty of work for conservators. :D
I like to browse eBay's 'Self-Representing Artists' category and have bought some original pieces there that I like very much.

Recently I was considering some water colors until the artist said that he glues each painting to a piece of luan and attaches a wire for hanging to the back.

These were really lovely paintings and it distressed me to think that they would be brown and shriveled in a few years. So I wrote to the artist and suggested (gently) that perhaps this wasn't the best possible way to preserve his work.

The gist of his reply was that pieces sell much better when presented in a way that saves customers the exorbitant cost of framing and he suggested (gently) that I mind my own business.

I suppose what this boils down to is a need to educate the art-buying public. I don't know how to do that. I'm not sure that a one-custom-framing-customer-at-a-time approach is effective but I can't think of anything to suggest as an alternative.

With precious few exceptions(some of them here on The Grumble,) artists should not do framing. Nor should they offer advice about framing.

In return, I will not do watercolors.
I think the KEY Here is "DO NO HARM" while you are doing so make sure that nothing you do is irreversable. So if there is no mounting already done then DRYMOUNTING would be doing it harm.
I think if the concept the ORIGINAL ARTIST had in mind incorporated Drymounting then it might be considered harmful to undo it.If you can follow my lead.
However from a FRAMERS prospective Drymounting or adhereing any work of value decreases it's worth since the framer is altering the state which the ARTIST intened it to be in.
There are countless works that I (in my uninformed opinion)view as being already harmed from their inception but that is the right of the artist and as Ron said I won't give ART lessons if Artist don't give framing instructions .However I have no control over what THEY do,but I do completely control what I DO.
PS I think I have already mentioned ;I was told by Herb Carithers that Ansel Adams glued some of his original photographs down. Would you have bought them as they were? I would.But Herb made a strong point for us to never do so in his Framing school in Jackson ,Misssissippi,back in 1980.

[ 02-17-2004, 06:09 PM: Message edited by: BUDDY ]
We framers can advise customers proper methods of framing but still have to give in to their wishes. When you do buy the limited edition from this St. Louis artist and it is already mounted, be more concerned about the glass you will use so you can enjoy it longer and preserve its value at least some. If he doesn't mount it, fine... but remember prints are not permanent anyway...well, Iris prints are supposed to last longer? Some of my customers don't worry about limited editions losing value because of mounting. They want them to look nice now. I had a lady bring in one to be mounted (it was already framed nicely but had one small wave in it) and replied to me after I advised her not to mount it... "it will most likely be faded in 10 years anyway so there won't be any value left. I don't want to look at waves for 10 years so mount it." She said she was replacing one that she had for approximately 8 years and it was all faded. I told her she should have used conservation glass on it to extend its life and she didn't know what it was. After I explained what conservation glass was she had me put it on her new limited edition print but she still mounted it. I will be sick when the day comes that someone brings in a print by the "PAINTER OF LIGHT" for framing and wants it mounted!
Jean in Maine


I'm making a list and have enough now to go about 2 years.
At least, proper dry mounting, while it alters the "condition" of the paper, does not destroy it.

Personally, I think buying art as an "investment" is silly, and insulting to the artist. So, if the customer's answer to, "Do you care about this piece's future monetary value?" is "No, I bought it because I like to look at it." I will be happy to do an archival dry mount.

I do stop at cutting down originals, though. (which I have often been asked to do) My response to that is, "Why did you buy it if you don't like it? Take it back and get one you like, or buy a print for me to cut down." I have even been asked if I could change the background color on a painting. Over forty years of experience with people, and I still don't understand them.
Well my "inexperienced" 2cents worth...is this.
Yes I too agree that I do not buy art as an investment....I buy it because I like the art work or the limited edition print. AND I add that although many of you do not agree, I too do not want to look at it in it's wavey condition during my life. I want to proudly display it and proudly say that I framed it so that people that do not have the slightest idea of framing and conservation matters of limited editions, would think that I do not know what the heck I'm doing...cause "that picture was wavey"! SO in conclusion, I think if a person has spent tons of money on something, then do not mount, but a few hundred dollars or so, I say make the picture look good and enjoy it!
BUT I do give the owner a choice and tell them about not mounting anything of value and let them decide without my opinion (as much as that hurts!)
Sorry, that's my opinion. Not worth much...but that's it.
My last thought is a question really...is there any kind of "copyright" law on limited editions that a framer CAN NOT mount?
Thanks...have a great day.
Plain and simple, don't drymount it. You say that the artist tells you that he does it all the time? A wiser framer than me once told me "never let an artist frame his own work". You as the framer are responsible for what happens to the art as a result of your framing, so follow the guidelines and don't drymount it. Explain to your client why you refuse (for all the reasons mentioned above) and stick to your guns. Somewhere down the road, your client or his/her heirs will thank you.