Storing Artwork

I am an artist. My husband was an artist. My parents and siblings are all artists. I have a lot of art in my life. When people walk into my home, they are shocked that they can not see any empty wall space. It is covered with art from floor to ceiling with art. As an artist who is creating daily, I finally realized that enough was enough. I can’t help the creating; it is just something I must do. But, the art on the wall was becoming a bit much! So I decided to look at storing the art in a storage unit. This process is not as easy as just dropping paintings off and leaving them there. There are things that must be considered first.

Rotating my art on the walls has become a new habit. It gives a room a periodic change and allows the artwork to have a place of honor. Because I have so many pieces from my family and friends, I have been able to group pieces together by mood or color or even shape and size. Those that I don’t put on the wall in one of the wall updates, gets moved into a storage unit to use in the next change over. When it is a painting’s time to go to storage, the following is a list of what I do to make sure that the painting not only survives, but that no damage is done and its value is preserved.

Keep all artwork in the frame! I keep the piece as is because taking it in and out of a frame only damages the edges of the painting itself. It may be a bit bulkier than if you took it out of the frame and it will definitely be heavier. You will just have to use the right packing boxes that can handle a large framed painting. Loose or frameless art must be stored a bit differently than framed because it should either be rolled or kept very flat and as stiff as possible. Rolling up a painting could also crack or flake the paint itself. If the painting is very old, do not roll to keep this from happening. If you are going to store for just a short period of time, rolling can be the easiest for space considerations. I have found very large, wide and thin boxes to store paintings in at kitchen design stores or sign shops. If you have a map shop, they too have boxes for storing loose paintings. A protective sheet between each painting is definitely needed. I have used fabric like muslin or bed sheets between each painting. You can order rolls of protective sheeting on Amazon also.

Packaging the paintings is a matter of love because you want to preserve the artwork. Proper packaging for artwork would normally be done with acid-free paper, custom crates or filing drawers. But, not everyone can afford those. The most important thing to consider when packing the painting is that you don’t want to use plastic wraps or bags because moisture could be created and cause permanent discoloration from mold stains. Try to use coverings or packaging that is without color, acid free and keeps the dust and dirt out and away from the canvas. Canvas is cloth and can get dirty just like your clothes. I like to think I am wrapping my paintings in their winter snowsuit when I take them to storage!              

The perfect storage facility for storing art is one that is climate controlled. Temperature, heat, cold, humidity are no problem when you can control them all. But, I personally did not have that choice in a facility. I have kept some pieces in my home in the back of a closet because I felt they were too delicate for a storage unit without controls. A collage using 100+ lace from my grandmother’s mother and photographs from 1918 are extremely precious to me. But when it came time to pack it up for a bedroom redo, I just knew that it had to stay in the house because it would not easily withstand the temperature changes. When choosing a storage facility for your art, you need to consider price, features and how well the works will handle the climate.

When my husband passed away, his works of art became even more important not only to me and the family, but for their security. Proper Documentation of all of his works were immediately done. We had title, description, date of painting and where it was painted. In case of theft, damage, or of loss,we wanted to make sure that every piece was properly cataloged in the art collection. A copy of this was kept with my insurance papers and another copy was sent to the insurance company for my files there. We included pieces that had been sold and where they were currently displayed. We also asked the storage unit facility about their policies and liability, warranties and insurance coverage. Any time you are dealing with valuable assets, insurance is a must. Storage facilities go to great lengths to ensure the safety of valuable objects their clients entrust to them, but even they have their limits. Natural disasters such as tornados, flooding, hurricanes can destroy a storage facility just as it can a neighborhood. My husband’s work is final. He can’t paint another one, so I had to make sure that the facility’s insurance would pay for if something horrible happened. Of course, I carry insurance over the facility unit also.

For me, art is very personal. I collect from those I know and admire and if anything would happen to their work that is in my possession, I would be devastated. That is why it is so important to make sure that each piece is carefully wrapped and packaged and stored so that it can come home again and be proudly displayed on my walls!

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