We hear it often.
Factoring in the costs of addressing problems that inexpensive mass-produced or low-quality custom stretchers can cause, there is an argument to be made that those options are not so inexpensive after all. Nonetheless, for years Simon has been looking for ways to help artists on a budget have access to higher quality art supports.
In a sense, the challenge has been about securing corners without cutting them: could Simon source materials and streamline production in a way that lowered costs without compromising the custom quality that is his hallmark.
Aluminum wasn’t necessarily the answer and, as the industry turned more to the metal, Simon saw many iterations that were structurally unsound or otherwise untenable. For a long time, even the best ideas he encountered seemed to be compromised by flawed designs and less-than-stellar materials.
Still, aluminum’s potential was interesting enough for Simon to begin experimenting around how it could be integrated with his own designs beyond the high-end custom aluminum stretcher that he has offered for years.
Then Museo’s “ALU-Frame” stretcher system crossed his radar.
An international fine art manufacturer since 1972, Alres B.V. is Europe’s leading producer of canvas and easels. Under their Museo banner, the company has invested years into refining precision-engineered aluminum components and frames.
What really caught Simon’s attention, however, was their proprietary connecting hardware.
The virtues of that system put ALU-Frame far ahead of the commercial stretcher pack — especially in terms of maintaining stability and facilitating easy assembly. If Simon could work with their proprietary components while also relying on Museo’s manufacturing bandwidth, here was a path to the streamlined production process he sought.
Fortunately, Museo was open to a collaboration. The prospect of Simon Liu introducing their brand to his customers — and to a wider audience in the United States overall — represented an attractive opportunity for the Netherlands-based company.
A top-to-bottom well-made aluminum stretcher can deliver dependable strength and stability so long as 1) the quality of the individual parts is consistently high from prototype to casting to machining, and 2) the inherent limitations of aluminum are offset by a premium wood lip.
In Europe, lip profiles typically feature a softer edge. Simon wanted a crisper, harder-edged lip profile in line with what most American artists prefer — just like those found with his most popular premium wooden stretchers.
Focusing on strength and workability, he spent a year testing and refining his modifications to Museo’s product. Them, after some additional back-and-forth, with creative modifications on both sides of the working partnership, a new product was born.
Keyability would be key — and now that feature was exceptional thanks to two industry leaders merging their strengths into a stretcher greater than the sum of its parts and available for lesser sums than lesser mass-market products, all hardware included.
Simon’s signature A-Liu-minum Stretcher:
- Boasts a peerless proprietary hardware system
- Delivers enhanced strength and structural integrity
- Features 100% precision keying
- Comes in a wider range of available thicknesses: 1″, 1 1/8″, 1 1/4″, 1 3/8″, 1 1/2″
- Has conveniently removable crossbars to avoid adverse canvas-contacting issues while painting
- Can be ordered fully-assembled or shipped directly in parts for easy self-assembly
This exclusive Simon Liu-Museo collaboration is a high-quality option priced like inexpensive retail stretcher options — and in some instances even lower during our special introductory pricing.
Though not exactly new to the fold, aluminum — abundant, easily-extruded, and relatively inexpensive in large quantities — remains one of the most promising frontiers in fine art supports. Even better, the metal is relatively eco-friendly and sustainable.
Throughout the lifetime of a painting, fluctuations in humidity are a disruptive factor for wood, prompting the search for viable alternatives. 1941 saw the first attempt to build stretcher bars with metal, but aluminum wasn’t tapped for the task commercially until 1966.
Since the turn of the century, the high-quality wood required to build stable stretchers has spiked in price and become more difficult to acquire. Even discounting those considerations, aluminum’s stability makes it an appealing substitute.
There is some speculation about potential long-term risks from canvas (as a natural fiber) being in constant contact with metal. But having a wooden lip outside the aluminum body alleviates such concerns while providing an ideal surface for stapling, as well as allowing for more diverse sizing and styles.
Museo delivers high-quality aluminum with an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, backed by years of fine art manufacturing expertise and dependability.
Plus, their aluminum crossbars can be easily removed without harming the canvas using only a simple Allen key. And for larger sizes, the final stretcher will often be lighter than comparable all-wood options.