From the 2010 show at the Recycle-Reuse Gallery. Note all the different frames.
As I have been getting ready for an exhibition, I had to choose what type of frame I was going to use. Most of my past shows have been with 11x14 inch frames. That's a decent size for 7x7 and 8x10 sized images, but going larger demands bigger mats and frames. If you have a stock of 11x14 metal frames, they will last for a long time and multiple shows (especially if you do not end selling much of your work). There is no law that says all of your framed work should look consistent, but it sure as hell looks a lot nicer for a show. That's why I stated in the last post to stick to a single color, if possible, or at least use frames that can be easily repainted if necessary.
This time around I have had to look for 16x20 and 20x20 frames. In the past, I have purchased frame kits from American Frame in Maumee, OH, or from Dick Blick online. With a large number of pieces, I looked for something that was durable, inexpensive, and included glass. I have been buying smaller frames from Ikea for years. Their 5x7, 8x10, and 9x9 "Ribba" frames are made of solid wood, and the birch color is very attractive. However, as you go to larger sizes, the frames are made of fiberboard with vinyl overlays. I don't recommend fiberboard frames for temporary shows for a couple of reasons. First of all, they are not very durable with the vinyl covering. You can't easily repaint them, and second of all, inserting a matted photograph has to be done very carefully and rechecked to make sure that little pieces of dust from the fiberboard did not fall off in front of the mat. Believe me, that is a pain in the ass to have to remove the mated photo, clean everything off again, blow away any residual debris, etc. and replace everything the way it was. Third, it is no secret that while in the US, we use 16 x 20, 11x 14, etc., Ikea is a global company, and their frames are in the metric sizes. Therefore, their 40x50cm Ribba frame is actually 15 3/4 x 19 3/4 inches. It's not a big deal to have to cut my mats slightly smaller, but it does make for a bit more complexity. Yes, they come with a nice PH-neutral overmat, but my mats will need a 10 x 15 inch opening,not exactly standard.
As I shopped at Ikea, I abandoned my idea to use the more-substantial-looking black Ribba frames at $14.99 (which IS cheap, believe me), and took a look at their Strömby frames. The "16x20" Strömby frames are metal, painted gray, and also only $9.99 each. I bought one of each of the sizes I need to try them out. Remember, they have to be able to be hung in a gallery, be durable, and easy to insert and remove the artwork. After trying them out, I went out and bought the remainder that I needed. I spent $120 on 12 frames, which is pretty darn cheap. The backs are secured with plastic cams that have holes for the hanging wire, and they appear to work quite well. I usually end up not using the Masonite panel that is included, but use my mats instead.
Of course, it helps if you have an Ikea nearby. I only have to drive less than 20 miles, and I don't think they ship the frames via mail-order. I'll take photos of the show once it is hung, but for now I will leave you with some sources:
American Frame - Comprehensive selection, high quality, and fast shipping.
Dick Blick - their cheapest metal frames are pretty good, but they use styrene instead of glass, which I don't like.
PictureFrames.com -- their cheapest 16x20 sectional metal frames are less than $13.00 each, and do not include glass or mats. However, they offer mat boards and other framing supplies and appear to be a great deal for anyone wanting to purchase their frames in quantity. Their 777FSL Economy Metal Frame is "Frosted Silver" and a 12x12 frames is $9.22. That's pretty good, IMHO.
ClearBags.com - inexpensive pre-cut mats and back mats and Mylar bags for your artwork. Highly recommended.