Storing Art: Four Best Practices for Caring for Your Precious Collection
If you’ve chosen to invest in a new piece of artwork, then its rightful place should be on display; unfortunately, we are occasionally forced to put away our choicest pieces, whether for renovation, moving house or something similar. In such cases, there are right and wrong ways to go about storage.
To help make things as easy as possible, let’s take a look at some best practices for not only storing your artwork, but also transporting and maintaining it over a period of months or years.
Storing Your Art
As a rule, it’s critical to consider the following three factors when transitioning your art into storage:
- Think about the environment — Choose a storage area with minimal variation in heat and humidity. Somewhere around 55% humidity and temperature of 21oC would be ideal for avoiding mould growth and limit the amount of contraction of the art itself. Avoid attics and basements.
- Preparation — Bind framed artwork tightly with bubble wrap, then pad either side of the wrap with hard board, before taping together. For unframed pieces, a sheet of silicone release paper can be placed over the front before wrapping the whole thing in glassine paper for protection.
- Stack carefully — If you are storing many different pieces, always be careful. Stack everything safely and prioritize structural integrity — it’s not a game of tetris!
Whether it’s an ancient Greek bust or a post-modernist portrait, you must move your art carefully. Try to hold framed pieces by resting the base of the frame on your hands (rather than gripping the sides, or pulling upward) and never hold something in one hand.
Many artists choose to use crescent board for transporting and storing artwork. It’s is an acid-free mounting board and keep multiple pieces of art together, but not touching, while in storage.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Before putting your artwork in storage, dust it down completely using a microfiber cloth and consider using a spray polish of some sort to keep dust from settling on further down the line. If your art will be in deep storage for a long time (aka years), then repeating this process periodically will help keep the painting in tip-top shape. It’s also good to unwrap your art now and then to ensure that it’s being well-kept.
Protecting Your Art While in Storage
The easiest way to ensure your painting returns from storage clean, healthy and undamaged, is to cover it completely and correctly before it goes in. Cover the entire painting in cloth (to repel dust and dirt) and make sure the cloth is light and completely dry before putting it on, to avoid humidity and mould buildup.
Wherever you store your work, ensure it is away from direct sunlight. Sunlight damages the canvas and dilutes colours, making it one of the worst enemies of stored artwork. That’s why the Mona Lisa has its specialised display case, made of transparent yet virtually impermeable anti-glare glass.
In addition, any sources of heat or cold should be kept well away from your artwork. Temperature (and humidity) variations can be hugely destructive, so always keep artwork away from doors, draughty windows, heaters and so on. Aim for a room with near-constant humidity and temperature, and always keep your art above the ground.
Archive with Proper Documentation
By following all of our previous guidance, your artwork should remain safe and pristine throughout its lengthy storage spell. However, accidents happen and when it comes to our most precious possessions, we must always prepare for the worst.
At the very least, you should have recent images of the artwork accompanying a condition report, basically all details about the piece’s age, wear, colour as well as any existing damages. Note the dates they were moved to storage. This will help you keep track of any damages or changes to the pieces when they come out of storage.
Naturally you should also insure your artwork, though undoubtedly you’ve already done that for your home. Contact your insurer to find out how transporting and storing your artwork may affect your policy.
Storing art isn’t always a happy process, but with the right actions and decisions, it can be a temporary and painless one!