Long Island City Facilities
Our building in Long Island City has a history of housing fine art related service, having been, until 1999, Christies’s principal warehouse. When we acquired it from Christie’s we over-hauled the structure completely, replacing old factory windows with energy efficient glass block and removing all old internal structures to make open, efficient floor-spaces. At that time we installed air-conditioning and humidification systems throughout its entire 27,000 square feet.
The first floor of our facility houses our art preservation studio, design showroom and offices. The space is climate controlled and the air is filtered. There are multiple light sources: North daylight in the showroom, fluorescent work lights, gallery lights, high intensity lights of specific color temperature and a portable raking light.
Our art transport truck pulls into a garage inside the building, which ensures a safe and easy load and unload for frames and works of art. With fourteen foot ceilings and ample floor space, we can accommodate exceptionally large pieces.
Our shops—woodworking, metalworking and gilding—are located on their own floor. Read more about them in the feature sections below the slide show.
Gilding on wood is an ancient art. According to Herodotus, it was practiced by the ancient Egyptians.
Our method is traditionally known as water gilding. Our gilder prepares the wood surface of the frame with gesso—a mixture of chalk and rabbit skin glue. The gesso is then sanded and polished. Over the gesso the gilder flows on a coat of naturally colored clay, called bole—most often a red/orange color, following the Florentine Renaissance model, but the bole can be any color; Cennini recommended green bole, which we still use, as well as blue, black and yellow.
The laying of the leaf requires a very light touch. The gilder lays down thin sheets of gold, much thinner than tissue, with a squirrel hair brush, called a gilder’s tip. The richest gold is 24k, but there are many alloys, including pale gold, red gold and several others. The final step is to burnish the gold to a high luster with an agate stone tool.
Having our own metal shop affords us a rare capacity for expanding the range of frame design. Since setting up the metal shop in the early 1980’s we have experimented with a variety of metals: aluminum, brass, bronze, copper and steel. We have explored and tested numerous patinas and finishes, and we continue to create many new shapes. We also make metal-clad hardwood profiles from copper, brass, zinc and aluminum, further expanding our range of metal framing options. Because we fabricate metal frames in-house, we can respond specifically to the demands of each project. Our versatility in this area is unmatched.
We started out making frames with one radial arm saw. Now we work with an array of cabinet-making tools and equipment. Our woodworkers are capable of performing the most detailed work as well as making frames of the largest dimensions. We routinely make one-of-a-kind mouldings for individual works of art and for whole exhibitions, utilizing a wide selection of hardwoods, mostly from our region, such as maple, walnut, cherry, and ash. Mahogany from FSC certified sources is regularly utilized, and more exotic hardwoods and veneers are occasionally used as well. Finding lumber from sustainably harvested trees has become one of our priorities.
While we keep dozens of profiles in our active inventory, we frequently refer back to our archive to revive mouldings for special projects. Often, we modify one of our existing profiles to better fit the proportions of a particular work.
Carving and hand finishing with gesso and casein finishes represent some of our traditional treatments.Our contemporary finishes include spray finishing with modern water-borne acrylics.
Our entire facility is air-conditioned in summer and humidified in winter so our woods remain well conditioned and stable.
Having developed a wide range of painted finishes, including many different whites, we made the matching of colors a priority. Color matching can be surprisingly complex. Balancing the subtle tones of an off-white paper, with an off-white mat and an off-white frame, when just the slightest shift can be jarring, is further complicated by different lighting conditions. For instance, colors that match in natural daylight may well appear skewed under gallery lights.
To improve and regulate our paint mixing we built a light booth to carefully match colors. The walls are painted with a special neutral gray paint which has no color bias. In the booth, by selecting a lamp of specific color temperature, we can mimic the conditions in which the framed work will be seen. Incandescent bulbs at about 2800 d. Kelvin, give a warm, yellow light. Halogen lighting is 3000 K, while the cooler, bluer light of fluorescents ranges from 4100 K for cool white to 5000 -6500 K for daylight fluorescents (the nomenclature is confusing: the higher the color temperature the cooler the light). Mat board and frame finishes that are well matched in a warm light may be discordant in a cool light.
If you tell us the color temperature of the lighting where the works we are framing will be hung, with the precision afforded by our light booth we can be sure that the colors of the frame and mat will be properly balanced.
From an art preservation point of view, a framed and glazed work of art constitutes an enclosed micro-climate. The envelope holding the artwork should be constructed to be as benign and protective an environment as possible, taking into account outer conditions: light, heat, relative humidity, pollution and biological risks such as mold and insects. But if the surroundings in which the framed work resides are out of control, if humidity spikes up in summer and down in winter for example, then eventually the framed art will suffer.
The same holds true for any building in which art is stored; climate control must be maintained. Our entire facility is climate controlled—air-conditioned in the summer and humidified in winter. Where art is stored the A/C is supplemented with dehumidification. For decades we have recorded temperature and RH with our hygro-thermograph—all day, every day— and the records are available for inspection.
Our truck is air-conditioned. In order to protect art from the shock and risk of passing from our truck to the street and then into our facility, our truck dock is contained fully inside the Bark Frameworks building in Long Island City.