Caring for Your Artwork as the Summer Winds Down

August 17, 2016

Many of our clients have vacation homes, a house on the beach or in the country, that provides an oasis during the summer or a place to enjoy the snow in winter months. Frequently, artwork is installed in these homes, allowing our clients to maintain their deep connection to fine art even when they are away. It is tempting to leave the works installed in second homes during the offseason. However, if the home is unused for months out of the year, it is worth considering moving the works into offsite storage to protect the collection.

As we enter the heart of hurricane season, it’s important to remember that severe storms often lead to power outages which in turn lead to drastic changes in temperature and humidity within a home—conditions that can be incredibly damaging to fine art.

Our friend Joan Smith, Senior Member Advocate Advisor at PURE Insurance, recalls the story of a member who lost a rare contemporary art piece that was left in his unoccupied home following a hurricane last year. “His home was without power for an extended period of time. The rapid and prolonged rise in temperature and humidity caused the pigments to dull and appear diluted, rendering the painting a total loss.”

Many second homes are in areas where drastic drops in temperature are commonplace. If a home is unattended, there is a magnified risk of potential heating or air conditioning system failure, burst pipes, and pests. Even if the home is attended by a caretaker, there is still significant risk. While a staff member may be able to respond in an emergency, it is unlikely that they will be trained in handling artwork, which may be damaged as it is moved out of harm’s way.

UOVO recommends a seasonal rotation of the collection during offseason months and encourages collectors to take precautions during severe weather warnings. A qualified and professional art storage provider will safely de-install, pack, and store the works in a building that is monitored 24/7 by trained staff, may have an emergency backup generator, offers protection from temperature and humidity swings, light exposure, natural disasters, theft, and vandalism.

If offsite storage is not an option, be sure to keep these tips in mind when closing down your home for the summer:

  • Don’t store artwork in the attic or basement: they are often either too dry or too damp and won’t have a consistent climate and temperature.
  • Do store artwork in a location with a temperature between 65-75 degrees Farenheit and 50% relative humidity, using a dehumidifier if necessary. Temperature and humidity fluctuations can cause paint to crack and mold to form.
  • Don’t store artwork in direct sunlight. The pigments can fade. Close all shades and set up storm shutters.
  • Don’t store artwork directly on the ground. Either keep works hung on the wall or place on a shelf.
  • Don’t pack artwork in plastic wrap or bubble wrap. It can scratch the paint and trap humidity, creating a breeding ground for mold.
  • Do cover paintings with dry, clean cloths or acid-free paper or board.
  • Do set your burglar alarm and set up notifications for any and all activity. Make sure all doors and windows are locked.

Proper care for the collection will give you peace of mind – so that next year’s summer season is just as enjoyable and memorable!