Here is what you need to know to pack up and store your works in a way that will guarantee their longevity and safety.
by Tanya Singh
Whether you are an art collector or just a home owner in possession of a few valuable works of art, there will come a time when you will need to pack up those artworks and store them. It could be because you are moving houses, redecorating the space or even because there is simple no more room for artworks left in your home. Nonetheless, it is absolutely necessary, for the sake of your valuable and cherished art pieces, that you do this right.
Pack up the artworks in bubble wrap and stack them in a corner! Sounds easy, right? Wrong! From the type of wrapping to the temperature of the storage room, there are a number of things that need to be considered before you can say that your artworks are safely in storage.
In our last article in the Caring For Your Art series, we are going to help you pack up and store your works in a way that will guarantee their longevity and safety.
If you are an avid collector, you are most likely interested in learning how to best store your works because there is a good chance that you will soon be running out of space or may even already have. If not, do not get discouraged from reading the whole article just yet. Even if you own just a couple of works of art, there is always a possibility that you might have to store them at some point.
Let us explain! Art galleries and museums keep works in storage all the time. While one of the reasons is because they want to replace those works with new pieces, another one is that this is actually done for the sake of the artwork. Being on display for lengths at a time can be very harmful for artworks. The paint starts to crack and fade and the frame starts to deteriorate. That is why works of art, especially paper and photographic works, are never put on display for more than a year at once. Therefore, even if you don’t collect art per say, you might want to know more about art packaging and storage.
The first and foremost thing to consider is the time span that your works of art are going to be stored for and depending on that, what kind of storage facility you are going to use.
If you are just redecorating and regularly switch between a few seasonal works of art, you may store these in your home, as long as the temperature can be controlled. However, as a collector, the best option is to take the help of a professional storage facility. Most warehouses and storage units give you the option to choose a space where the temperature can be controlled. If you live in a large, metropolitan city, you might even want to look for a local storing unit specifically for works of art.
The best place to look for advice on such matters is to go to the gallery or artist you purchased the work from, or for that matter, any local established art gallery. They would have tried the different services available and will most likely know the best ones in the area.
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Once you have decided on the time frame and picked out the most suitable storage facility, it is time to get your artworks ready. Prior to packing up and preparing your artworks for storage, a thorough cleaning would be beneficial. Use a microfiber cloth or a dry soft paintbrush, depending on the medium, to dust off the artwork. If the work is framed, you might also wish to spray the wood with a quality polish. Sculptures and metal frames should be polished too.
Useful Article: Caring For Your Art – Cleaning And Protecting Art
The way you pack up the works really depends on the amount of protection they will need. Here is everything you will need to know about packing up works of art.
While packing up framed artworks, first use cardboard corners to provide protection to that frame and the structure. Following this, use bubble wrap or any similar padding to wrap up the entire work and secure the ‘protective blanket’ in place using tape or string. To add an extra level of protection from dust and moisture, place the artwork inside a plastic bag or wrap it in plastic from the hardware store. The final step is to place the work inside a box of roughly the same size.
Note: Boxes are easily available at stores, but it helps to inquire at the storage facility itself. Acquiring all the material from the same place makes the job much easier.
Useful Article: Caring For Your Art – Framing Art
While rolling up canvas paintings and storing them is a much easier and cheaper option, we don’t recommend it. Sometimes, if the artwork is left rolled up for too long, it might develop permanent crease and cracks in the paint. The best way to pack up an unframed artwork or a canvas is to wrap it up in glassine, an air and water-resistant material and securely place it in between two sheets (slightly bigger than the artwork) of another sturdy material like foam or cardboard. As with framed artworks, you can create an added layer of protection by placing the artwork in a plastic bag and tying it securely prior to packing it away in a sturdy, appropriately sized box.
Bubble wrap is usually used to pack up sculptures and artifacts. If the work of art has too many edges, make sure to cover it up with multiple layers. Following securing the bubble wrap in place with tape, place the structure in an appropriately sized box and stuff the extra space with newspaper or any waste paper. This minimizes movement and protects the works from breakage.
Are the artworks packed up and ready to go to storage? Great! Is your job done? No! There are a few other important things to consider when you’re storing your works.
The importance of this could not be stressed more. Do not rush the process of packaging and storing your works. Your haste might end up costing you a lot more!
It is very important that you keep proper records of all your artworks, especially if you are an established collector. Label all the packaged artwork with the name of the work ad the artist. Create a simple spreadsheet of all the works of art you own. Put in all the details about the artworks and keep tabs on its location – whether hanging in your home or placed safely in a storage unit. Don’t forget to take pictures of the artworks for reference! It is also a good idea to maintain lists for each storage unit you put your works in, in case of an emergency or theft. These documents will also come in handy when and if you have to file a claim for insurance.
As mentioned several times above, it is important that you choose a storage space where the temperature can be controlled. Artworks need to be stored in a cool atmosphere – maintaining a temperature of 70-degree Fahrenheit is often suggested by experts. Although it is rare for storage units to have large windows, make sure that your space does not have any. Ventilation allows moisture and dust that might damage the artworks to travel into the room.
The smallest details that are the easiest to miss often are the most important ones. In this case, even the way you place your artworks within the storage unit can potentially be harmful.
Framed works should never be placed on top of one another. They may collapse under their own weight. Instead, you should stand the boxes with framed works up next to each other. Unframed works may be stacked, however, it is best to place them standing up as well. Paper works and other small boxed works may be stored in drawers, but you must make sure to check for termite and acid secretions beforehand.
It is important that you go in to the storage unit and check on your artworks every now and then. This can help you identify any potential harm in time and prevent your works from permanent damage.
Storing artworks properly is as much of a necessity as it is a requirement if you plan to further sell the artwork. Hopefully, by this point you’re feeling more confident and prepared to store your artworks. With a little advice from the professionals and a fierce attention to detail, you have all the tools to safely secure your art collection.
Looking to change up a few artworks in your home for spring? Make sure that you store the works you are replacing properly!
Need some specific advice regarding your art collection or help in starting afresh? Benefit from our curatorial services! To know more, contact us at [email protected]
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Tanya Singh is a budding art historian and writer. She is currently pursuing her postgraduate studies at the LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore. With a versatile portfolio, she has over three years of experience in writing as well as editing.