You are likely already acquainted with the joys of displaying art inside your home. But what about your outdoor spaces? The realities of last year inspired many of us to make the most of the living space beyond our four walls and in our lawns, gardens, and backyards.
Art has the power to bring energy, joy, nostalgia, and peace to any living space –– and make it feel complete. And this isn’t limited to the indoors. Art brings these same transformative qualities to outdoor spaces large and small. Unsurprisingly, however, there are special considerations to make with outdoor art.
To ensure that your artwork is protected and well-positioned to last for many years, follow these tips for caring for outdoor art.
Talk with the artist
Before you purchase any piece, speak with the artist about how to care for it. Whether it will live indoors or outside, every piece has particular needs in terms of care.
An artist knows their medium best. They will have specific instructions for the care of any piece.
If you plan to display the piece outside, share the details of your climate and space with the artist. They may be able to take additional steps to ready the piece specifically for your environment.
Ask about sealants
Artists who create art for the outdoors will often apply a sealant depending on the medium. Ask whether anything has been applied and if it will need any upkeep over time. Avoid applying anything before talking to the artist.
Iron sculptor Michael Jones says, “There are many waxes and oils available, and you want to make sure you use something that is compatible with the finishes.” The right sealant can extend the life of a piece, but the wrong sealant can start an unintended chemical reaction and end up causing harm, rather than protecting. Leave the application of the protective coat to the professionals –– either the artist or an expert in that particular material.
Keep in mind sealants must be monitored and reapplied regularly. Celebration artist Trevor Swanson, who paints on metal, says, “Depending on the placement [of the piece], I recommend a reseal every three to five years, or longer if the piece is really protected.”
Consider the elements
Placement, as Trevor noted, is important because a piece’s exposure to the elements will affect wear and tear. Direct sun, humidity, rain and snow, freezing, and thawing are all elements that will take a toll on any kind of art. Even the sturdiest metal will show signs of the elements over time. This is when you’ll need to use procedures like shot blasting to clean or polish the metal.
However, it is necessary to ensure that the products used are from a reputable source.
This is where shot blasting material suppliers such as Ervin could be helpful.
Selecting a space in your landscape that offers your artwork some protection is critical. If you live in sunny and arid Arizona, snow and humidity may not be a concern, but selecting a shady area shielded from the blazing midday sun will help maintain the health of your artwork. Michael says, “UV exposure is a huge concern, and this is where the waxes and oils become essential to protect the finishes.”
Chemicals can have adverse effects on any surface they come in contact with. Whether your outdoor pieces are metal, stone, or wood, take care to keep them safe from chemicals whenever possible.
Metals may corrode or develop an undesired patina when they come in contact with certain chemicals. Stone may also wear away when it comes in contact with acidic chemicals.
First and foremost, do not use chemical cleaners on your outdoor pieces unless an expert has specifically recommended a certain product. Similarly, keep your outdoor pieces away from chemicals that may be present in your yard, including fertilizers and pesticides. And don’t forget about the chemicals present in the natural world. Tree sap and bird droppings may fall onto your outdoor pieces, but any residue like this should be removed as soon as possible. The uric acid in bird droppings and the etching effects of dried-on sap can cause long-term damage to the surface of outdoor art.
Even salt, whether used for de-icing on nearby walkways or present in the ocean air, can speed up corrosion on metal pieces. Michael also warns about the dangers of hard water and cautions art collectors against placing pieces near sprinklers.
Don’t mix your metals
Mixing metals can have similarly deleterious effects. Dissimilar metals undergo electrolysis, a corrosive process, when they come in contact with an electrolyte, such as water. This is important to consider when you are determining how to display your outdoor artwork.
Do not, for example, place a copper or bronze statue on a steel plinth. As the two metals are exposed to rain, the steel will corrode.
Wipe, don’t scrub
For most outdoor pieces, a simple wipedown with lukewarm water and a clean cloth is all that is required. Never use abrasive scrubbers such as scouring pads on your artwork.
Regular cleaning is an important component of the maintenance process. Michael says, “There are always going to be spider webs and dust and of course, birds love outdoor sculptures! A simple wipe down a couple times a year will really keep an outdoor sculpture vibrant.”
This will also help keep any naturally corrosive elements at bay, and gives you an opportunity to inspect the piece as you clean it. Trevor suggests using the cleaning process as an opportunity to check for wear in the sealant coat.
Don’t let these considerations detour you from purchasing outdoor art. Most artists who create outdoor art have taken much of this into consideration and most pieces will be well equipped to weather the elements. But taking those few extra steps and asking the right questions can help prolong the beauty of your investment.