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The Best Framers in New York

Photo-Illustration: Curbed; Photos: Getty

For Unusual Shapes

Downing Frames, 4261 24th St., Long Island City;

No request is too far-fetched for Downing Frames, which has been building pieces (from $200 to $38,000) for blue-chip artists, galleries, and museums like MoMA and the SculptureCenter for nearly 15 years. For Deana Lawson’s recent show at the Guggenheim, Downing incorporated mirrors, stickers, and holograms into frames for her interactive works. For artist Mariah Robertson’s geometric chromogenic prints, Downing created asymmetrical polygon frames. When multimedia artist Erin Shirreff wanted her pieces built inside the frame (think of a model ship in a bottle), she called the Long Island City framer. “Downing does everything for us,” says Yuta Nakajima, senior director at Hauser & Wirth, adding that the framer can pull off feats with remarkable turnaround. Nakajima recently needed eight large, delicate Philip Guston works in frames with gold leaf applied by hand; it would ordinarily be a six-week job, but Downing had them ready in a month.

For Frames That Would Cost Double in Manhattan

Greenpoint Frames, 937 Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint;

The Somerset House founder Alan Eckstein has gone to Greenpoint Frames for five years. Eckstein has since moved out of the neighborhood, but the vintage-furniture and art dealer still heads back to Greenpoint for framing (for both his store and home) because of the shop’s excellent price-to-quality ratio. “Frame shops in the city are going to charge double what Adam Collignon charges, and the quality will be sometimes worse,” says Eckstein, recalling a 30-by-20-inch piece that came in at a $300-to-$400 framing estimate at Greenpoint Frames and $1,000 in Manhattan. Collignon has owned the business since 2018, when he took it over from his mentors. He has since made some updates, like adding new materials to the inventory and hiring his own staff (who Eckstein says did an “incredible job” with an uneven painted metal sign by a Jamaican artist that he recently brought in). “It feels like a little artist community in there,” Eckstein says. “They’re always playing cool music.”

For Annabelle Selldorf’s Framer

Handmade Frames, 1013 Grand St., Williamsburg;

Architect Annabelle Selldorf has been taking her personal art collection to Handmade Frames since 1990. She has referred her clients to Paul Baumann and Marilyn Gold, who own the shop, for just as long, sending them everything “from contemporary works to old masters,” she says. “They are meticulous in their approach to every project, whether it is for a museum or an individual.” One standout feature in Handmade Frames’ work: Baumann and Gold take into account the realities of living in a city like New York and find inventive ways to frame pieces (from $200) beautifully but flexibly. For a 27-foot-long Richard Serra quintych, they built a lacquered maple frame designed to break into two pieces during transportation; a delicate Hao Liang painted silk scroll was mounted with three glass panels to protect the work from light and airborne dirt. For Selldorf, though, it’s simple: “They know how to show the piece at its best.”

For a Wooden Frame

Soho Picture Framing, 611 Broadway;

Stylist Beverly Nguyen has a very specific preference for frames: “I have most of my artwork in a 1.5-inch oak frame with floating glass,” she says, explaining that, to her eye, “it allows the piece to stand out and not distract you.” Nguyen, whose eponymous homewares shop stocks a lot of similarly warm and pared-down bowls, spoons, and brooms, initially had a hard time finding a framer that would build something to her specs: “Believe it or not, ten other framers fought me on this very simple design I requested.” Nguyen went by Soho Picture Framing after reading its Google reviews and found the perfect shade of oak (ask for “natural”) at the right price (from $250). And the owner, Michael Ingbar, immediately agreed to her dimensions. “He met me with no resistance,” says Nguyen, who has since gotten ten pieces framed with him.

For an Art Historian’s Eye

Bark Frameworks, 21-24 44th Ave., Long Island City;

When Elizabeth “Buffy” Easton first started working with Bark Frameworks, she was the chair of the European-paintings department at the Brooklyn Museum and had undertaken the sensitive task of reframing some of the museum’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Easton and Jed Bark spent ten years studying the collection before replacing the generic Louis XIV – and Louis XV – style frames with hand-carved ones made to honor the artists’ brushstrokes and composition. “I had never before considered the importance a frame plays in how one looks at a work of art,” she says, noting that one of Bark’s new frames for a Monet changed the viewing experience entirely by revealing an additional 45 square inches of the canvas. Easton continues to send pieces (both professional and personal) to Bark, both for his critical eye and the shop’s manufacturing capabilities: “I don’t know of any other framer that has both gilders in-house as well as a metal shop,” she says. “They can make a metal frame with no seams because they fabricate it directly for the work.” (Prices start at $350.)

For New Collectors

Ulfig Projects, 544 Park Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant;

Interior Designer Adam Charlap Hyman is a genuine frame obsessive (“People make fun of me because I go to museums and take photos of the frames,” he says) and trusts Weston Ulfig with his own pieces. Charlap Hyman says that Ulfig typically makes “very quiet structural decisions” that add life to contemporary, modern pieces — at a slightly below-market rate for high-end framing (from $220 to $4,000), as he crafts most orders in-house instead of sending them out. For a series of Charlap Hyman’s own cutouts, Ulfig suggested mounting the works onto a textured mat, which, he said, would allow the viewer to pick up the shadow and dimension of the piece. “Ulfig performs this magic trick of putting pieces in a frame that gives them the right amount of space and air, with the right color around them, to make someone stop and look twice,” says Charlap Hyman.

For Jenna Lyons’s Framer

Skyframe, Chelsea, 141 W. 28th St.;

Three people gave us resounding recommendations for Skyframe, including Jenna Lyons, who has gotten countless pieces framed there. Lyons initially went there because the company is bonded and insured for high-end art, but she returned because Skyframe always said yes to her ultraspecific requests and never rushed a decision. On one occasion, when Lyons wanted a Cy Twombly done up in a custom silver-leaf frame (to compliment the drawing’s blue undertone) and a black border, Skyframe mounted the piece on a mat board so it would, at Lyons’s request, float within the frame without revealing a shadow. “It’s like finding a good tailor,” Lyons says. “I come to the table with knowledge and want to use the knowledge they have, too. They know what they’re talking about.” (Prices range widely — small matte-black jobs can start at $55; a hand-carved and gilded piece will be closer to $8,000.)

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The Best Framers in New York