The Collector’s Issue | Keeping up With the Joneses

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

When the “big one” comes—the earthquake that registers near 8 on the Richter scale—Chris and Beverly Jones will be ready, and so will their artworks. The Pasadena, CA, couple has taken painstaking measures to protect their paintings from a devastating natural disaster. Their rigorous research has led them to purchase state-of-the-art products not only to disaster-proof their art but also to minimize the damaging effects of the Southern California sun. An observer might describe the couple’s efforts as near obsessive. But it also means the Joneses have valuable information to share with other collectors.

Built in 1931, their English Tudor-style home showcases more than a dozen early California Impressionist paintings—works by artists such as Elmer Wachtel, John Gamble, and Franz Bischoff. More recently, the couple has purchased landscapes by contemporary painters such as Kevin Macpherson and Jesse Powell. To prevent them from crashing to the floor in the event of an earthquake, each one is fastened to the wall with a small mechanical device called a Track & Slide. Two metal tracks are mounted on each side of the frame’s back; wood screws secure the tracks to the wall.

Chris, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, spent hours online researching available products. The Track & Slide was developed by an art conservator in Germany and is used by museums, hotels, and corporations around the world. “The cost is small,” Chris says. “It’s also good insurance against someone breaking in to steal your art.”

To further protect their art, the Joneses have covered all of their windows with a special film called Prestige 40 made by the 3M Company. Their two-story home has leaded-glass windows, and 440 separate film panels had to be cut and applied to the inside of each window pane. This was a pricier effort, says Chris, but the manufacturer claims the film blocks 99.9 percent of ultraviolet light and 97 percent of infrared light, which can fade colors and damage artwork. Beverly notes some side benefits to the film: It also protects their furniture and carpets from fading, and their electric bill has dropped.

The couple’s collection includes works on paper, and for these pieces they purchased a special glass. After another Internet search, they settled on glass made by Schott, an Austrian company. The museum-grade product consists of two sheets of glass laminated together. “If the glass cracks, it won’t gouge the painting,” Chris says. “It’s also anti-reflective, so when you stand in front of the painting, you can really see the art.”

Finally, Chris admits he went “a little hog wild” and purchased SoLux lightbulbs to illuminate their artwork. The patented light source, often used in museums, replicates the daylight spectrum. To make sure everything was just right after the bulbs were installed, Chris pulled out his light meter to check that the light levels were up to museum standards. It might seem pretty daunting to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to protecting artworks, but even a few of these measures will go a long way toward safeguarding your art.

Featured in October 2009