Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Frames help tell us that paintings are art. As Frank Zappa put it, without one “You can’t tell where the art stops and the real world begins.” The F in frame also stands for fashion. In the seventies stripping frames off old paintings became a museum passion. Modernism’s love of simplicity and objection to decoration helped, as did formal abstraction’s appreciation of the edges of the canvas and the authenticity of paintings as objects. Frames didn’t have a chance. The best they could hope for was standing in for past glories as a thin sliver of aluminium as for a time no frame was the best frame. In New Zealand Colin McCahon caught the fever, famously declaring, “ I’m finished with frames and all they imply.” Museum storerooms took on the look of local mints with gold frames stacked in piles. Times change. Now, once again, lavish gold frames are crafted specially to highlight the works in museum and private collections. Noland, Kelly and Ryman are probably safe for the twenty-first century but in the world of framing, the gold standard never really goes away. “If I spit, they will take my spit and frame it as great art.” - Picasso