Whether due to a move and need for temporary storage, lack of display space or change in decorating, or simply a burgeoning collection of pieces, it is not uncommon for art collectors to develop the need to store art from time to time. Due to the delicate nature of fine art and its intrinsic value, it is important to take steps to protect pieces from risk of damage or destruction.

Much has improved in the world of art conservation, and it is possible to spend a lot of money trying to restore a piece of art.  But if care is taken to properly preserve art, the time, cost, and loss of original artistry can be saved. Here are some strategies for storing art carefully when the need arises:

PREPARATION

First, art should be stored in clean condition. Dust and dirt left on art can cause further damage. For most types of art, cleaning with a microfiber cloth using wood or metal polish can remove particles and prevent rust from settling on metal sculptures. Another option is to take this opportunity to have your art appraiser prepare a condition report, have the works professionally cleaned, and these improvements recorded.

MATERIALS FOR STORAGE

One material to avoid is plastic wrap; using this air-tight product can lead to mold by trapping humid air inside with the artwork. You can instead use brown paper and bubble wrap, or a product called Crescent board, an acid-free mounting board commonly used for matting of prints and watercolor art. By placing artwork between two pieces of crescent board, air can flow around the works, but they do not touch or rub against each other. Applying frame corners to protect the corners of art, and placing it in solid boxes is another way to keep air flowing while protecting art surfaces.

If the art is unframed such as photographs and prints, acid-free cardboard sheets and plastic sleeves (not sealed on all sides) can protect those types of art. Regular materials (those that are not acid-free) age more quickly and can dye the backing of canvas or paper, decreasing the art’s value.

CLIMATE IS KEY

No matter what type of storage you choose, an environment with ideal climate is the most important consideration in storing your art. The accepted standard for recommended climate is humidity between 40% and 50%, and temperature between 68 degrees and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Severe climates can cause various types of deterioration:  cracked paint (dimensional change), warping and yellowing (chemical reaction) and mold growth (bio deterioration).

One thing to consider is the age of the art you are storing; antique works of art have survived tens, even hundreds of years, in all types of climates, and may be resistant to some damage. However, modern works, having been created during periods of comfort-controlled studios, may not be as hardy to environmental extremes; one must be diligent in protecting it. The rule of thumb is to avoid changes in temperature and humidity of more than 5% within 24 hours.

DOCUMENT YOUR ART BEFORE STORING

You may already have documentation (bills of sale, appraisal, provenance, etc.) for your art, but this is the time to double- and triple-check that you have everything in order. Before you seal up your art pieces, be sure you have updated:

  • Photo inventory
  • Condition report (noting any damage or changes)
  • Inventory system—consider investing in a cloud-based program


PROFESSIONAL ART STORAGE

If you aren’t bothered by having your art stored away from your home, the ideal storage facility is a professional location. The following are aspects important in choosing a storage site:

  • Fire-resistive structure;
  • Free-standing, away from other buildings;
  • One entry/exit point, with no windows;
  • Motion, fire & smoke detectors connected to 24/7-monitored security;
  • Fire suppression system with sprinklers;
  • Trained & bonded personnel offering restricted & monitored access;
  • For those with the highest valued collections, a private vault may be desired.

HOME ART STORAGE

If you cannot locate a convenient facility that meets your needs, or simply prefer the peace of mind that having your art nearby brings, you can store your art inside your home.  Look for the following features:

  • A finished room with no windows;
  • Avoid attics or basements unless finished with climate control;
  • No air vents, or air vents covered with deflectors to prevent air from blowing directly on art;
  • No exterior walls – this reduces the risk of damage due to sunlight from window or a broken window allowing moisture to enter;
  • Smell the room – pay attention to dust, mold, or musty smells which may indicate problems.

When storing artwork in your home, be sure to keep art off the floor, using boxes or shelving. It is best to avoid stacking, and hanging wall art is ideal. If you must stack paintings or similar pieces, do so vertically, using cardboard between pieces to prevent scuffing.

No matter what location you choose to store your artwork, check it periodically. You don’t want to miss an event which could have been prevented, or damage which may have been caught early and moderated. Plan to check on pieces every six months, unless weather or other disaster occurs which may prompt you to check earlier.

So, don’t fret if you are compelled to store your art. These steps will help you ensure that your art is protected while it is stored. For additional information, Sybaris Collection offers a network of professionals with years of experience to guide you through your journey to becoming a collector, support your growing collection, and provide additional art professional services. From our Buyer Protection and free Art Advisory Programs, to our various galleries and exclusive ARTclub offers, we can help your art shopping experience be satisfying and culturally educational.