Category Archives: Safe Handling of Artwork

Fine Art Insurance 101

Three Insurance Experts Explain the Intricacies of Insuring Your Art Collection

I am often asked by clients if they should cover their art under their homeowner’s insurance (HO) or if they should investigate insuring their art with a separate fine art collectors’ policy.  Since I am an art dealer and not an insurance agent, I thought it prudent to do a deep dive into the world of fine art insurance so I could properly advise my clients.  As I started to research the subject, I was shocked to discover how little I knew about fine art collector’s insurance and how inadequately most HO policies cover collectibles like fine art.  To help others better understand how their art is currently covered, or not covered, I have written this informational post titled, Fine Art Insurance 101.

To research this article, I looked at both homeowners’ and personal inland marine policies, and specialized policies written just for art collectors.  I also interviewed an insurance agent who offers homeowners’ insurance, a fine art insurance specialist, and a fine art provider who underwrites fine art policies to learn what is covered, how is it covered, who will pay a claim, and how it will be handled.

To better understand each perspective, I have divided my post into three parts.

Part One:

Is Your Art Adequately Covered by Your Homeowner’s (HO) Insurance?

I called the agent who handles my HO insurance, Connie Butler.  Connie is the Personal Lines Manager for Champion Commercial Insurance in Dallas, Texas.  She was kind enough to visit with me about how fine art and other collectibles are covered by most HO policies, and ways to improve on the protection they offer.  If you have actually read your HO policy front to back and have scheduled your fine art and other collectibles on an attached personal Inland Marine Policy, move on to part two, if you have not done both of these, don’t skip part one!

Part Two:

An Interview with a Fine Art Insurance Specialist

I emailed Houston, Texas based Adrienne Reid, Vice President of one of the largest fine art insurance specialty brokerages in the country, Huntington T. Block, and she was kind enough to answer my many questions about the when, how, and whys of fine art collector’s insurance.  Early on in our conversation, Adrienne answered the “When” question by saying “If you can walk around your house and you determine that you have more than 5 artworks that exceed $10,000 each in value, you should consult an agent or firm that specializes in fine art insurance.”

Part Three:

An Interview with a Fine Art Insurance Provider

Most insurance is underwritten by an insurance provider.  A provider evaluates the risk, provides a quote, issues coverage, and, in the event of a covered loss, pays the coverage set forth in the policy.

To learn more about the role played by a fine art insurance provider, I emailed Katja Zigerlig, Vice President of Art, Wine + Collectibles Advisory with Berkley One, a Berkley Company that specializes in providing insurance for fine art and collectibles, as well as high-end homes, autos, liability, and watercraft.  She and her team were extremely helpful and most generous with their time.

Note:  I am not promoting any specific agent or insurance company with this post. I am grateful to and crediting those who gave liberally of their time to advise me, and thankful for the education I received in the process.  I hope you find what follows enlightening.

 

Part One:

Is Your Art Covered by Your HO Insurance?

My first inquiry focused on how a fine art loss was handled by a standard HO policy.  To do this, I interviewed the agent who currently handles my HO insurance, Connie Butler.  Connie is the Personal Lines Manager for Champion Commercial Insurance in Dallas, Texas.

Soon into the interview, I realized that certain types of personal property, primarily collectibles like fine art, are not normally handled the way I thought.  I naively “assumed” that the word “All Risk” meant just that, and all my personal property was covered up to the amount stated on my policy’s declarations page.  So, I thought that if I had a policy with a personal property limit of $500,000, and a $25,000 painting was stolen from my home, it would be completely covered, less the deductible of course.   I was wrong.  I now realize that HO insurance is designed to insure your home, not protect your art collection.

Fire is considered a major homeowner risk by providers
House Fire, Pixaby

Many of your possessions like clothes, furniture, and appliances are covered, in most cases, by a replacement value.  In the event of theft however, other item categories like fine art, jewelry, and furs, have classification limits varying from $500 to $5,000 per category depending on the policy.

To provide more realistic and broader coverage to your valuable personal property items like fine art, your agent will normally offer you another type of policy called a personal Inland Marine Policy, sometimes called a “floater” or “endorsement.”  In this type of policy, individual items and their value are listed; the coverage is broader; most claims are handled quicker; and the coverage is usually less expensive than blanket coverage.  The following is a synopsis of my interview with Connie:

The most common types of HO policies and how they generally relate to a fine art collector.
Types of HO Policies:

The two types of insurance policies available to a homeowner are “Named Peril” and “All-Risk.”  As its name implies, the “Named Peril” policy only covers the perils that are listed in the policy.  Of the two, the “All-Risk” policy usually provides broader coverage for a homeowner.

What an All-Risk HO policy covers:

Within the stated dollar limits on a policy’s declarations page, an All-Risk HO insurance policy provides coverage from all risks or perils that could damage your home or its contents and personal property unless the risks are specifically excluded or limited by the policy.

How your personal property is covered by most HO polices:
What is covered:

Most All-Risk HO policies provide blanket coverage for most of your personal property.  In the event of any covered loss, a deductible will be applied.  How these claims are paid will depend on if your personal property is covered for “Replacement Cost” or by “Actual Cash Value.”  In the event of a total loss of an insured item, “Replacement Cost” coverage will replace the item with a new one of equal or like quality, while “Actual Cash Value” coverage will provide the insured a cash payment equal to the item’s depreciated value at the time of the loss.

What is Partially Covered (Special Limits of Liability):

In most All-Risk HO policies, personal property items of a certain type or category are handled differently than the rest of your personal property when it comes to theft or mysterious disappearance.  These categories are individually identified in the policy and often include collectibles such as fine art, currency, coins, stamps, and jewelry.  The amount of money paid to the insured in the event of this type of loss is capped depending on the category.  For instance, the amount of money paid the insured for the theft of one or more artworks that have a total combined value of $20,000 could be as little as $500 depending on the policy.  These are items that the Insurance companies want you to schedule separately under an Inland Marine Policy.

Other Types of losses not covered in an HO policy:

Losses typically not covered include damage caused intentionally by the insured, damages caused by lack of proper maintenance, terrorism, nuclear war, damage by smog, bug infestations, rust, mold, general wear and tear, and any other exclusions listed in the policy contract.  Also, most all policies will protect the insurance company if it is found that the insured intentionally provided false information to get insurance or while making a claim.

How your agent can provide better coverage for your personal property than your standard HO policy provides:

To protect an insured’s property that is not covered by the standard HO policy, companies normally offer another type of policy called a personal Inland Marine Policy.  Attached to this policy is a list provided by the insured of all the property that exceeds the limits of their homeowner’s policy that they want insured and the value they want each item insured for.  This type of policy will normally have fewer restrictions than a HO policy and provide more in-depth coverage.  If an item on the schedule is lost to an unexcluded risk, the insured will receive the amount of money specified as the items listed value, unless a deductible applies.  If the item is damaged and not a total loss, the policy will normally pay for its restoration up to its listed value.

Scheduled Personal Property Insurance is always an “All Risk” policy.  This means that it will cover against “… all risk of physical loss or damage to your property described in the schedule of Personal Articles, unless an exclusion applies.”  For each item covered, you would normally have to provide your agent with a photograph, a copy of the original purchase receipt, and sometimes an appraisal if you want to list the item for more than was originally paid.

I asked Connie when she thought an insured should add a personal Inland Marine Policy to their HO insurance.  Without hesitation, she said that “if you have any personal property valued at $2,500 or more, you should list it separately on a Scheduled Personal Property Policy.”  That is the best way of knowing that it is covered properly.

Summary:
Homeowners’ Policy:

Be sure your HO is an “All Risk” “Replacement Cost” policy. It will usually cost a little more but worth it if you have a tornado rip through your home.

To truly understand how your home and possessions are insured, read your entire homeowner’s policy, especially the attached “other coverages” and “endorsements” pages. The “other coverages” and “endorsements” have the power to change coverages in the basic HO policy.

If you have read something in your policy you did not expect or did not understand, call your agent, and get clarification. After a loss is not the time to find out you were not covered for a risk you assumed you were.

Fine Art Insurance 101 discusses damage from tornados
Tornado near Minco OK, May 3, 1999, NOAA image

According to my agent, it is important to photograph each room showing not only your art but all of your personal property that is visible in the room. (although this may not relate to art, open closets and drawers and photograph what is visible inside.)  Categorize images by room and upload the files to the cloud and to several thumb drives that can be kept in a safe deposit box or with a relative.  My agent said that if your house is hit with a tornado and your possessions are scattered over the county, you will have a hard time proving to the insurance company that you actually had the items in your claim without photographic evidence.

EF5 tornado damage in Joplin MI
Damage from the Joplin, Missouri EF-5 tornado in May 2011. (Article on EF-5 Tornadoes is linked to this image)
Inland Marine Policy:

Scheduled Inland Marine Policies are All-Risk and pay the insured the amount listed on the policy or repair the item if a loss occurs that isn’t excluded by the policy.

Any item you own that is kept in your home and is valued over $2,500 should be itemized on a scheduled personal Inland Marine Policy. You can update the value on any item if you can provide your agent with evidence of a greater value.  (I recommend that if you do not have a separate policy covering your fine art, that any artwork you have paid over $1,000 for be listed on your Scheduled Personal Property Policy.)

 

Part Two:

An Interview with a Fine Art Specialist.

Insurance companies that specialize in HO and automobile insurance are rarely equipped to handle the specific needs of an “Art Collector.”  The good news is that there are companies that write policies geared specifically for the fine art collector and agents who specialize in matching these policies with those who need them.

One of these agents is Houston-based Adrienne Reid, Vice President of Huntington T. Block.    Adrienne has specialized in fine art insurance for over 15 years helping museums, galleries and collectors keep their art properly insured.  Via email, Adrienne was kind enough to answer my many questions about the when, how, and whys of fine art collector insurance.

Here are her responses to my questions:

When should a person consider getting a separate policy for their artwork?

When you start growing your collection beyond just a couple of artworks, you should investigate insuring your art under a separate fine art policy.  If you want broader and more specialized coverage for your art than what can be obtained from your homeowners insurance company, a fine art collectors’ policy is going to be a better option.

What are the advantages of having a separate fine art policy over listing your art on your scheduled personal property policy?

Generally speaking, a fine art policy includes coverage for breakage, flood, and mysterious disappearance – which are commonly excluded on a homeowner’s policy.  The policy also typically extends to transit and other locations – which may not be the case on a homeowner’s policy. Make sure to read an actual issued policy to confirm what is covered.  But by far the biggest advantage is having a specialized broker who is knowledgeable regarding fine art coverage and who will place the coverage with an insurer who uses fine art specialized adjusters in the event of a claim.  A homeowner’s policy would send a general property adjuster, who may not know how best to handle a fine art loss or understand the implications of loss in value to artwork that can be restored.

What types of fine art policies are available?

For Huntington T. Block clients, both personal and corporate, we offer either a Scheduled (agreed value form) or a Blanket (current market value form) based on a client’s situation.

The Scheduled Form – The values on the schedule attached to the policy are the agreed values for coverage under the policy.

Pro:  The amount insured is certain and does not go down if market prices fall

Con: If the value goes up, the insurer will only pay the scheduled amount.  All new acquisitions and collection changes must be reported immediately and changed on the policy.  Only the specific artworks scheduled on the policy are covered.

The Blanket Form – The policy limit is blanket over all locations.  No schedule is attached to the policy, and no individual values are listed.  Valuation is current market value.

Pro:  Current market value can provide assurance in the event that artworks increase in value due to market conditions, for example, driven by popularity of an artist or genre, death of an artist, etc. All artworks owned by the collector are covered up to the policy limit with no per item maximum.

Con: If values go down, there is a possibility the insured will collect less than they paid for the item(s) because the valuation is based on current market values.

For both policies, collectors choose a deductible for their level of risk tolerance.  A high deductible provides lower annual premium, but more out of pocket in the event of a loss.  A low deductible has higher annual premium, but less out of pocket in the event of a loss.

Of the two types of policies, which is the most popular among your clients?

About 80% of our clients have chosen a Blanket Coverage policy.

Can you give an example of how you would determine which type of policy is best for a new client?

If a collector is actively acquiring and wants protection in case their artwork values go up prior to getting an updated appraisal – a blanket policy may suit them.  If the collector is not actively acquiring and wants certainty in the value of the art insured on the policy – then a scheduled policy may suit them.

What types of questions do you ask a prospective client to determine if they need Fine Art insurance?

Do they have a collection of more than one or two artworks?

Do they plan to continue collecting?

What is the total value of the artwork?

Where is it located?

Do they intend to sell the collection in the near future (or is it part of an estate)?

When was the last appraisal done?

Do they have an inventory of the collection?

I know that most insurance is underwritten by third party companies.  What do you need from a prospective client to get a premium quote?

When the collector determines that a separate fine art policy meets their circumstance, I send them an application.  Once it is returned along with a copy of the most recent appraisal or collection inventory, I will send it on to several underwriters to get quotes.

Fine Art Insurance 101 discusses the risk of flooding
New Orleans flooding after Katrina, Pixabay
How do you determine what underwriters to contact when looking for the best match for your client and what is the process of approaching the ones you feel would be the best fit for a quote?

This depends entirely on an insured’s location (are they in a catastrophic area?), the total value of the collection, and how quickly they need a quote turned around.  Once I determine the underwriters, I submit to them the completed application, collection appraisal or inventory, and the quote specifications.  As a broker, my role is to represent the client and identify underwriters for their coverage needs – and make sure that it is the most competitive premium available.

Fine Art Insurance 101 discusses the damage that can occur from hurricanes
Shore front home wrecked by Hurricane Katrina, Freeimages.com
How many companies are out there that do Fine Art collection underwriting?

There are about eight insurance companies that have specific fine art underwriters in the United States.

Is there an average number of underwriters you would approach per client?

Generally, no more than three – unless there are issues with the submission – like claims history or catastrophic area, etc.  Typically, once we receive an application, we know which underwriters to approach.

I understand that in most cases, fine art collection insurance is less expensive than scheduling the artworks on a homeowner’s policy.  Can you provide a range of a percentage cost per year that each type of fine arts policy covers?

That is a tough question – because so much depends on the size and location of the art collection and the client’s claim history.  HTB writes over 1,000 art collectors in the United States.  In general, premium rates go down as the collection total value goes up.

Once insured, what is the most important thing a collector can do to protect their collection?

A good digitally stored inventory, and quality digital photographs of each artwork is paramount.  These should be stored offsite and/or in the cloud so that in the event of a catastrophic loss, an insured has documentation to provide to the adjuster.

As with any insurance claim, the more information and documentation that you are able to provide the adjuster, the better. An adjuster may have a difficult time settling the appropriate payout for a claim if the collector does not have detailed information about the artworks. Making sure that the collector has updated documentation (that is accessible after a loss) is one of the most important things they can do to be prepared.

My research shows that there are a lot of companies offering fine art collection insurance based in London.  Many of them will offer a quote to ensure a single artwork online by asking only three questions; your name, email address, and the value of the artwork you want insured.  Can you comment on these companies?

I am not sure that a company would be in a position to offer a binding quote based on such limited amount of information.  It may be an attempt to gather information for another purpose.

Once you have your fine art policy in place, what actions should you take after a loss; say a picture falls off the wall or your artwork is lost in shipment?
Tips for these two scenarios:

Art Falls Off the Wall

Take several photographs before moving the artwork.
If safe to move, move artwork out of harm’s way.
Determine extent of damage. Depending on the damage, it may not be desirable to file a claim.  But it is always best to notify your broker of the damage so they can notify the insurance company.  It is better to err on the side of reporting damage; claims can always be withdrawn if it is decided to handle the expenses out of pocket.
Report to your insurance company

Artwork is Lost in Shipping

Notify the shipper and the insurance company.
The insurance company will work with the shipper to investigate the loss. If the artwork is later received, keep the insurance company updated.

Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency, Inc. collector policy losses by size from 2000 to 2020
Pie chart showing fine art losses over 10 year period
Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency, Inc. collector policy losses by count from 2000 to 2020
Summary:

I think Adrienne pretty much covered what is important to know about obtaining a fine art collectors’ policy.  However, I did want to mention two things to think about while applying for, and after your insurance is in force.

If your agent provides quotes  from several underwriters, in addition to reviewing the cost, limits,  and deductibles of each policy, be sure to ask your agent about any differences in coverage each provider is offering.   Also, after the fine art policy you have chosen is in effect,  if you have any artwork already covered by your personal inland marine policy that is now also covered under your new fine art policy, don’t forget to call your HO agent and have those works removed.  You do not want to pay for double coverage and then have the company who covers your fine art insurance feuding with the company that covers your HO insurance about who is responsible for paying a claim.

 

Part Three:

An Interview with a Fine Art Insurance Provider

When you have made the decision to insure your art on a separate fine art collectors’ policy, the organizations that your agent contacts to request coverage options and premium quotes are known as insurance providers.  These are the entities that underwrite the insurance and are responsible for paying any covered claims.

To better understand the role of the provider regarding fine art insurance, I emailed Katja Zigerlig, Vice President of Art, Wine + Collectibles Advisory with Berkley One, a Berkley Company.  Through the insurance company subsidiaries of W. R. Berkley Corporation, Berkley One specializes in underwriting insurance for fine art and collectibles, as well as for high-end homes, autos, liability, and watercraft.  Katja and her team were kind enough to furnish answers to my questions about the role of a fine art insurance provider.

Following are the answers to my questions:

What is a provider’s business relationship with the insurance agent?

As an insurance provider, Berkley One works very closely with independent insurance brokers and agents, whose role is to work with a client directly and advise him or her on their insurance needs based on risk exposure.  Independent agents and brokers typically work with multiple providers to offer clients a range of insurance solutions that fit their needs.

What is the provider’s business relationship with a prospective client?

When an applicant who is looking for coverage contacts an agent who specializes in insuring fine art, their agent will begin working with providers such as Berkley One to obtain an insurance quote.  To get the information that we need to provide a proper quote, we would, along with the applicant and agent, work together to get correct information about the applicant—including things like home value, elevation certificates if the applicant lives in a flood zone, appropriate legal documents when necessary, and a full schedule of artworks to be insured—to help make sure we can offer a solution that fits their needs.

Sometimes we get inquiries from applicants directly.  When this happens, we will find out more information about the applicant and risk, then connect them with an appropriate independent insurance agent who then becomes their source for insurance advice.

Once an applicant becomes a client, then the provider is “on risk” (the insurance contract is now in force).

When an agent sends a provider a prospective client’s application and a request for a quote, what steps does the provider take to determine if, and under what conditions, they will offer a policy to cover the collection?

Assessing a risk exposure is called underwriting and is an important part of the insurance process.  For personal collections, some major risk factors that a provider can consider are the physical location where the collection is kept, the nature of the collection, and the type of collector. For example, a million-dollar collection of paintings in a condo in South Beach, Florida has different weather exposures than the same collection in a house in St. Louis, Missouri.  A collection of glass sculptures has a higher probability of breaking than a collection of paintings.  Often, these risks can be mitigated, so knowing the protections in place for a collection is also important.

Fine Art Insurance 101 discusses the risk of hurricanes
Hurricane Irma off the Florida Coast, 2017, image reduced in scale and lightened, Flickr

How does a provider determine how a premium is calculated?  Would you please provide examples?

Information about risk exposure goes into an algorithm that determines a rate depending on the exposure.  In the example above, the development of rates for an art collection in coastal Florida will be different from the development of rates for the same collection in the Midwest, as the exposure to hurricanes and tornadoes differ by geography.   Collectors will be encouraged to provide as much information as possible about how their collections are cared for, as providers often file rating credits or discounts for higher levels of protection.

Fine Art Insurance 101 shows the risk of wildfires
The Apple Fire burning north of Beaumont, Friday, June 31, 2020, Image by Brody Hassin
What is the practical difference between Blanket and Scheduled coverage for collectibles?

Scheduled coverage separately describes individual collectibles to be insured, allowing them to be covered with a specified coverage amount at the time of policy issuance.  At the time of loss, where description and coverage amount are pre-determined, the adjustment of the claim may not need to include further descriptions or a post-loss valuation.

Blanket coverage is based off a blanket value that covers multiple artworks and is often used to cover lower-priced valuables. While there can still be a maximum limit per item, each piece of artwork or collectible is not scheduled separately. A collector should also be aware that when an insured has blanket coverage, in the event of a loss, descriptions, and valuation will need to be established. That process could be complicated where the loss event also resulted in the loss of the documentation of the items’ descriptions and values, as insureds are usually required to demonstrate proof the item had been in their possession before the loss. An independent agent is a great resource for advice in whether scheduled or blanket coverage makes sense for a specific collection.

When a claim is made, how involved is the agent with that process or is it all handled by the provider?

Claims are typically handled by a claims adjuster employed or retained by the provider. Some agencies have a dedicated claims department and want to participate in the claims process or advocate for the client, while others prefer a lower-touch approach. Both approaches are fine, and in either scenario, communication between the agent and the provider’s claims staff is important.

Would you describe the process that occurs from when a claim is made to when the insured receives payment for the claim?

Here is a concise answer on a complicated question: The fact set of every claim is different, so a claim investigation will be designed using an individualized and collaborative approach based on the claim being made. There are certain components of every claim that must be completed. For instance, coverage needs to be analyzed and compared to the cause of loss to determine coverage, exclusions, and limits. Depending on the size and complexity of the claim, this may include obtaining documentation and/or sworn statements. The adjuster needs to evaluate the claim based on the facts, coverage, and documentation to ultimately resolve the claim.  Having open communication and collaboration between all parties can expedite this process.

Is there anything else you think is important for a prospective client to know about fine art collectors’ insurance?

Purchase the right amount of insurance with a reputable, financially strong insurance provider that understands fine art insurance and the kinds of claims that typically occur.

Summary:

Bottom line, an insurance provider decides to bid on insuring your collection, or not, based on the algorithm they employ for assessing risk.  The data used by these companies to determine acceptable exposure include factors such as where you live, how your collection is protected, what your collection consists of, and your claims history.  If you are provided a bid, the premium is based on these factors.  Different companies have different risk tolerances at any one time, which is why your agent may go to three providers to get a quote and only one will offer a policy.

A provider can reduce your premium by applying discounts.  Two circumstances where these discounts can apply is if you choose a higher deductible or the collection is spread between multiple buildings or locations.

Epilogue:

The one thing stressed by each specialist I interviewed was the importance of good collection record keeping and having a digital copy of those records kept away from the collection itself, especially if you have determined a blanket policy is right for your circumstance.  Connie Butler told me that when a series of powerful tornadoes struck Oklahoma City some years back, she literally sat down and cried with clients whose homes were destroyed and their personal possessions were scattered across the neighborhood.   She had to explain that, because they had no proof via written inventory or photographs to document what they had in their homes, their insurance company was unable to cover a great deal of the personal property they lost.

After thoroughly researching this subject for over two months, the one thing I would stress to everyone is the importance of reading the insurance contract, front-to-back.  Pay strict attention to the main section headings and subheadings of where you are in the contract as they qualify everything that follows.  If you have questions about what you are reading, it is best to make notes on the areas of the policy you do not fully comprehend.  Then, ask your insurance agent to explain each area of confusion until you do.  If they are unable to enlighten you, it is probably time to start looking for a different agent.  It is important, as with any legal document that could have such a powerful impact on your life, to fully understand it, and how it covers your possessions.

If you have read each part of this article, you probably noticed that I asked the same question to each specialist.  When I did, I kept all versions because, although the answers were technically the same, each was approached differently adding interesting nuances.

To reiterate what I said at the beginning of this article, my goal in writing it was to gain a general understanding of how art collectors insurance works.  Each section was reviewed multiple times for accuracy and to be sure that a layman, such as myself, would understand the basics.  During the process, if I was unclear about a term or concept, I would ask questions until it was.   If you now know whether you need to cover your art collection under a separate fine art collectors policy or just feel better informed about the subject, I have more than achieved what I set out to do.

*****

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For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.

Other FAE informational posts you may find helpful:

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Hanging and Framing FAQs

I am often asked questions regarding the hanging and framing of 2-dimensional artworks.  So, I have written a new post answering a few Hanging & Framing FAQ’s.  As there are many easily accessible videos available on how to hang a work of art yourself, I thought it best to focus on things I have learned from experience that many of those videos do not cover.  Although hanging a medium-sized work of art on a plasterboard wall at eye level is not difficult, I advise that for safety, any installation that requires a ladder be turned over to professional installers.  I have included tips on what information to gather before you contact an installer that should save you time and money in the long run.

An image of a person on a ladder hanging artwork in a stairwell
Although an interesting design idea, and maybe the only place the owner of this house had to hang this suite of works, it presents a very dangerous hanging problem that needed to be addressed by a professional fine art services company, not the furniture mover. This fellow is lucky he did not leave with a broken leg and trail of shattered frames and artwork.

Framing and hanging FAQ’s:

  1. Why is there a paper or cardboard backing on many framed 2-D works?
  2. Is it better to use mirror hangers (D rings) or wire to hang a work?
  3. What type of hangers should be used to hang artworks on a sheetrock wall?
  4. Is there a standard height for hanging 2-D artwork?
  5. If I decide to use two hangers rather than one to affix a wired artwork because of weight, should I do anything different?
  6. After establishing one hook in the wall and realizing that the hook needs to go up a quarter of an inch, what should I do?
  7. Can a hook be reused, and if I have removed the hook for any reason, should I just put the same hook back into the hole it was removed from?
  8. How should I prepare before contacting a professional installer?
1. Why is there a paper or cardboard backing on many framed 2-D works?

When you pick up a newly framed work from your frame shop, you will normally find that there is a backing of some kind on the verso of the artwork.  For a framed work on paper, the backing will usually also be paper, and for a framed canvas the backing will likely be foam core or a fluted cardboard.

For a work on paper, the paper backing is there to keep dust and insects from getting into the back of the frame assembly.  Most people will hang the newly framed work on the wall for the next 20 years and the backing will do its job.  However, if you rotate art in your frames, having to remove the paper and the messy double stick tape residue that is left is a lot of work.  If you are planning on reusing a frame regularly, it is best to ask your framer not to put the backing material on that frame.  If brown Kraft paper is used to back an artwork, over many years, it will become brittle and actually break up rather than tear.  When this starts to happen, it is probably time to have a framer check to see if the frame, and the artwork, need attention.

Examples of Foamcore and fluted cardboard.
Foamcore on top and fluted cardboard below are the materials most used to protect the back of a painting on canvas.

For paintings on canvas, a backing material such as foamcore or brown fluted cardboard is normally used.  These materials not only keep bugs and dust out, but they also protect the back of the canvas while the work is in transit.  It helps to prevent a hit or poke to the canvas from behind, especially if the artwork will be moved around a lot.  The best material for backing a stretched canvas is acid-free fluted cardboard which is often gray in color.  Although foam core is often used, over time, the foam between the paper layers will start to degrade and it will not be as effective as it was when it was new.  Brown fluted cardboard has a very high acid content and, over the long term, can adversely affect anything it is adjacent to.

An image of a piece of acid free carboard.
The best material for backing a stretched canvas is acid-free fluted cardboard which is often gray in color.
2. Is it better to use mirror hangers (D rings) or wire to hang a work?

The answer is, it depends. Both types of hanging methods work but here are a few reasons why one would be preferred over the other.

Mirror hangers:

  • + Best method for a long-term installation
  • + Will keep the artwork level
  • + In most cases, will hold the artwork closer to the wall
  • + Automatically puts less stress on the hanger and  frame
a selection of mirror hangers.
This is a selection of mirror hangers (also called “D” rings) showing their different sizes and shapes.

Wire:

  • + Often better for short term installations or for works that will be moved frequently
  • + Minimum impact on the wall as often one hanger can be used rather than two that are far apart.
  • + Wire now comes plastic coated and will last longer
  • – Uncoated braided hanging wire can rust and break over time
  • – Wire is under constant tension and may break over time
  • – May not stay level requiring occasional adjustment
  • – keeps a constant inward strain on the frame
  • – If two hooks are used and not placed properly, a constant sideways torquing pressure could be exerted on each hook causing them to eventually fail.

Caution:   Before you hang a work with wire, here is an easy way to be sure that the wire will safely hold the weight of the artwork.

  1. Lift the artwork by its wire about an inch off the floor so you can feel the force that is needed to lift it.
  2. Set the work back on the floor gently maintaining the same level of force on the wire it took to lift it.
  3. Place your other hand on top of the picture holding it down to the floor.
  4. Pull up on the wire with about 25% more force than it took to get it off the ground.
  5. If the wire breaks or is pulled from either of the mirror hangers holding it in place, have your framer replace or reset the wire, or just remove the wire, reset the hangers so they are vertical, and hang it from the mirror hangers instead.

Since screw eyes are not normally used today, their use often indicates that the wire is older and needs to be replaced.  When replacing the wire, mirror hangers should be retrofitted for the screw eyes because, especially in the case of older frames, as the wood dries and looses density the screw eye will lose its purchase and eventually fail.

An image of an old and inadequate hanging system.
This image illustrates a disaster waiting to happen. It combines old picture wire improperly attached to the screw eye and improperly twisted around itself. It would require very little force to either pull the wire out of the screw eye or pull the screw eye out of the wood frame.
A proper wire attachment to a mirror hanger.
This is a proper wire attachment to a small mirror hanger.

Tips on How to carry artworks:  Always carry an artwork upright facing you, holding it with two hands from both sides.  It is not a good idea to carry it from the top of the frame, and it is best not to carry it around by its hanging wire if it has one.  You are making a lot of assumptions by doing so and you have much less control over the artwork.

Man carrying an artwork from the sides, not the top.
It is best to carry any artwork from the sides, not from the top. Holding it to one side when walking with it will allow better visibility and if you trip, a greater chance of not falling on top of the artwork.

 

3. What type of hangers should be used to hang artworks on a Sheetrock wall?

Although there are many hanging systems available on the market today for hanging 2-D artworks on a Sheetrock wall, for home use, most professional art installers use a floreat-style hanger.  This type of hanger was designed to exert minimal impact on the structure of the Sheetrock, yet securely hold the weight each hook is rated for.  Each thin nail is made of strong high-grade steel and after the hook is installed, the nail can be removed in most cases by twisting it while pulling it out with your fingertips.  The design of the hook forces the nail to maintain an angle of 65 degrees as it goes into the sheetrock.

This image shows the cross section of a Flourite style hanger in a 1/2 inch thick piece of Sheetrock.
This image shows the cross section of a Floreat style hanger in a 1/2 inch thick piece of Sheetrock.

This angle is maintained so that most of the nail’s length is held in the structure of the rock.  When a painting’s wire or mirror hanger is placed onto the hook, the weight of the artwork pulls the hanger down flat, clamping it against the wall.  This combination makes for a strong hanging system.

Series of picture hanging hooks.
This lineup of five Floreat hangers shows the size recommended for the weight of artwork. Starting from the left, they are 10, 20, 30, 50, and 75 pound hooks. I suggest choosing the next size up from the weight you believe the artwork to be. IE, If you think the weight of the artwork to be hung is 16 pounds, don’t use the 20 pound hook, use the 30 pound.

Floreat hangers come in five weight levels:  10, 20, and 30-pound hooks use one nail, 50-pound hooks use two nails and 75-pound hooks use three nails.  As a rule of thumb, I always try to use a hook that is one weight level above what I think will hold the artwork.  If the artwork weighs about 15 pounds, I will use a 30-pound hook, not a 20-pound hook etc.

4. Is there a standard height for hanging 2-D artwork?

Yes and No.  If you ask a museum installer or gallery owner at what height they prefer to hang in their spaces, they will provide you with a number between 57 and 62 inches that they, or their institution prefers.  This number refers to the height above the floor of the center line of each medium size artwork they hang.  It is determined by the height of the wall, the size of the space, and the height that is most comfortable for the average person to view the work. (whatever average is)

Consistency is actually more important than the height that is chosen.  That is, if you have determined a hanging height that is most comfortable for you to view artworks in your home, then use that height consistently throughout the room and preferably the entire house depending on each room’s ceiling height.  Imagine how a line of medium-sized artworks would look in a museum if they hung each one at a different center line height.

Image showing center line height of 60 inches on a group of hanging artworks.
The center line drawn across the four paintings above is 60 inches above the floor. Much larger artworks, depending on their scale, may need to be raised or lowered depending on the circumstance. The same goes for smaller works hung one above the other. The center line height is helpful when hanging a lot of works together, salon style, to be sure they will feel balanced on the wall.

These center line height numbers become irrelevant if a painting is too large to work with the center line height chosen for everything else, but the height at which a larger painting is hung needs to relate comfortably to what is around it.  And of course, this number is not helpful if you are hanging over furniture or a fireplace.

Tip:  Do not intentionally try to line up the top of larger artworks with the top of a door or window frame.  If it happens to line up because you are following an established center line height it is fine, but the room will feel a bit odd if works are hung a little high or low just to have them match another architectural feature that will create a visual line around the room.

5. If I decide to use two hangers rather than one to hang a wired artwork because of weight, should I do anything different?

I recommend that when using two hooks, especially two or three nail hooks, they be canted inward so that the weight of the wire does not put stress on the nails and hook when hung.  With one hook, because the wire forms a mountain shape, the weight vector is straight down.

Image showing how a wire looks when hung by single hook.
A single hook makes a mountain shape with the wire and exerts an even downward force on the hook.

With two hooks the wire forms a mesa shape and the direction of the weight vector can be as much as 20 degrees off the vertical.   If both hooks are nailed in vertically, as one would place a single hook.  When the weight of the artwork is placed on it, it will have a constant sideways pull possibly causing an eventual failure.

Showing a two hanger installation.
When two hooks are used, the wire makes the shape of a mesa, not a mountain. Note that when using two hooks, they are nailed into the wall so they cant in towards one another. This is so the force on each hook is balanced and equally downward like when a single hook is used. Otherwise, if hung strait down like a single hook, the wire would create a constant inward force twisting the nail and eventually weakening its connection to the wall.
6. After establishing one hook in the wall and discovering that the hook needs to go up a quarter of an inch, what should I do?

You can move the hook ¼ inch to the left, to the right, or below,  but do not move the hook ¼ inch up.  Since a hole was created in the Sheetrock from pounding the nail in for the first time, placing a nail ¼ inch above that hole means that the structure of the Sheetrock beneath the hook is now compromised and can fail.

If hanging the artwork from mirror hangers (D rings), move the hanger on the opposite side down ¼ inch to compensate.  If hanging the artwork from wire using one hook, remeasure, and use two hooks rather than one.  That will not only keep the artwork from eventually shifting out of level, it will double the amount of weight that can be held by just one hook.

7. Can a hook be reused, and if I have removed the hook for any reason, should I just put the same hook back into the hole it was removed from?

The answer to the first part of the question is yes, if the nail is not bent or damaged in any way.  The answer to the second part is more complicated.  Using the same hole in the Sheetrock again can be tricky if one is not experienced in hanging or working with Sheetrock.  If the hook fits snugly and the hook does not move around loosely in the hole, and the hook holds a lot more weight than the artwork that is to be rehung, you are probably fine.  If you are concerned, use the hook in a slightly different location or replace a one-nail hook with a two nail, or a two-nail with a three.

8. How should I prepare before contacting a professional installer?

It is always best to use a professional art installer to hang your art.   Most installers work by the hour and you can save money by telling them the size and approximate weight of each artwork you want hung, where it is to be placed, and the type of wall they will be hanging the artwork on.  With this information, they can work up a more accurate estimate, bring the appropriate manpower, and the proper hanging equipment for the project.  Photographs of the front and back of each artwork, including their frames, and area photographs of the rooms that include the walls where the artwork is to be installed will be helpful.

I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful.  If you have any other questions regarding the hanging, framing artwork, or anything else related to the art world, send an inquiry to info@fineartestates.com.

*****

Following are other FAE Blog Posts concerning the framing and safe handling of artworks.

An image of a painting carefully placed in the back seat of a carPractical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork
An image of artworks carefully placed on on a bedTemporarily Storing Artwork: A Case Study
an image of a wall of shelves holding print boxesFour Artwork Storage Solutions

 

image of a wall of frame samplesThe Importance of a Proper Frame

 

an image of a graphic showing the entire spectrum of viable and non-visible lightWhen to Use UV Control Glazing
Two images showing an image of a flower behind reflective and reflection free glassReflection on the Problem of Reflections

 

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.

The FAE Design Blog Table of Contents:

As a service provided by FAE, the following informational posts cover a series of art related subjects, designed to demystify working with fine art, and tips on how best to use the FAE Website.  The FAE Design Blog table of Contents has been divided into the following categories:
  1. Most Recent Post

  2. Safe Handling of Artwork

  3. Artwork Installation

  4. Framing Artwork

  5. Fine Prints

  6. How to get the most out of the FAE Website

___________

1. Most Recent Post:

Fine Art Insurance 101Broken sculpture

 

 

2. Safe Handling of Artwork:

Fine Art Insurance 101Broken sculpture
An image of a painting carefully placed in the back seat of a carPractical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork
An image of artworks carefully placed on on a bedTemporarily Storing Artwork: A Case Study
an image of a wall of shelves holding print boxesFour Artwork Storage Solutions

 

 

3. Artwork Installation:

Hanging and Framing FAQ’s
outdoor image of a line of figure sculptures with arms raisedSiting Sculpture, Part One: Overview

 

facade of a modern house with a round sculpture sited in the front yardSiting Sculpture: Part Two, A Case Study

 

4. Framing Artwork:

image of a wall of frame samplesThe Importance of a Proper Frame

 

an image of a graphic showing the entire spectrum of viable and non-visible lightWhen to Use UV Control Glazing
Two images showing an image of a flower behind reflective and reflection free glassReflection on the Problem of Reflections

 

5. Fine Pints:

a panoramic image of the press room of a fine art publisherThe Value in Fine and Reproductive Prints
an image showing the print and print edition numberWhat Does That Fraction Mean on a Fine Print?

 

6. How to get the most out of the FAE website:

An image of the entrance to the Valley House Gallery Sculpture GardenWelcome to FAE!
See art on your wall with the app.Announcing the FAE App, now available from iTunes!
Image showing the FAE app on the apple App StoreWill It Work in My Space?

 

Composite image showing how a presentation can be made from FAE dataAnatomy of a View

 

Image showing painting over fireplaceCreating Stunning Presentations with FAE

 

 

*****

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.

Four Artwork Storage Solutions

Designing a place to store the parts of your collection that you do not currently have on display is not as difficult as it may sound.  One can either procure off site storage at a bonded fine art storage facility, or make space at home by assessing the dimensional space the art will take up that is currently resting and building rack spaces that are designed to safely accommodate it, taking into account your future needs.

Image of Artist's studio converted into a living space but adding large painting storage as a design element.
Artist’s studio converted into a living space but adding large painting storage as a design element.

Rather than provide a “do this for this situation” scenario, I thought it better to show the solutions we devised to store art in our home and gallery. These storage solutions have served us well and can be adapted to fit most any circumstance. They range from a large painting storage built into a living space and a framed works on paper storage in a closet in our home, to public and behind the scenes storage in our gallery.

Image of Cheryl Vogel providing scale to the room by sliding a painting out of the rack.
Cheryl Vogel providing scale to the room.
Visible Large Painting Storage:

We had more large paintings than we had room for in the gallery, so we built large painting storage at the end of a room that was originally an artist studio. The storage had to be functional and a decorative element in the space. It also had to be easily removable if we decided not to store works there in the future.

Two Images showing details of plinth, vertical supports and attachment points all designed to safely store large paintings.
Images showing details of plinth, vertical supports and attachment points

Since our house is in a flood zone, we created a plinth to put the artworks on and designed drawers on rollers that would fit within the body of the plinth, as deep as the plinth itself. The drawers hold plastic tubs for storage. We used 2 5/8 inch galvanized chain link fence posts for the vertical supports and a smaller diameter 1 5/8 inch of the same material to support the shelves.

Image showing Full depth plinth drawers that roll in and out on recessed wheels for long term storage. Plastic bins keep storage items moisture and bug free.
Full depth plinth drawers roll in and out on recessed wheels for long term storage. Plastic bins keep storage items moisture and bug free.

The plinth was built in individual sections and the vertical support pipes were designed to be easily removed. In fact, if in a hurry, the pipes and plinth can be removed by two people in about two hours. We used carpet on top of the plinth to protect the frames and edges of the artwork. So that we could minimize the visual clutter of the artwork and fluted cardboard separators, we had motorized white scrims added that can hide the artwork from view when wanted.

This image shows how a shelf has been added to the rack with a detail of the connector below. The motorized scrim that covers this section of the rack is also visible above, partially deployed.
This image shows how a shelf has been added to the rack with a detail of the connector below. The motorized scrim that covers this section of the rack is also visible above, partially deployed.

Built-In Storage in a Walk-In Closet

To store a collection of framed small works on paper, we had shelves built into a walk-in closet located in an unused bedroom.

This image shows rack spaces that have been built into a walk-in closet. Two of the three structural boxes that make up the racks were built over a storage cabinet. The louver doors serve as an HVAC return.
This image shows rack spaces that have been built into a walk-in closet. Two of the three structural boxes that make up the racks were built over a storage cabinet. The louver doors serve as an HVAC return.

Since most of the framed works were small in scale, we did not need extra strong supports.  A system of 3/4 inch high grade plywood boxes were built and the sides were drilled so the shelves could be supported with shelf support pegs.   To keep the temperature and airflow appropriate for works on paper, we had an HVAC register installed in the closet (shown below) and used louver doors that acts as a return (shown above).  Since the house is adequately secure, we were not concerned about security here other than keeping honest people out.

The rack space at the bottom demonstrates how the separators should be cut to protect artworks that are larger than the depth of the rack. The HVAC register seen at the upper left keeps the temperature and humidity within limits and the air moving.
The rack space at the bottom demonstrates how the separators should be cut to protect artworks that are larger than the depth of the rack. The HVAC register seen at the upper left keeps the temperature and humidity within limits and the air moving.

We used foam core separators for this rack space as it is less likely to scuff antique frames than regular cardboard.  It does not matter if the artworks extend beyond the front of the end of the shelf, as long as the separators are cut to accommodate the extension and there is enough room opposite the shelf for the artworks to be removed with ease.  Make sure that all framed works on paper will fit the rack spaces in their upright configuration, as they should never be stored sideways or upside down.

The carpet is cut pile and the front of each shelf, in this case 3/4 inch plywood, has been rounded so the carpet can be wrapped to form a soft bumper.

This image shows where two rack boxes of slightly different depths come together.
Here is where two rack boxes of slightly different depths come together.

Holes were drilled all around the supports so four shelf support pegs can hold each shelf wherever needed.  The holes for the shelf support pegs need to be drilled close to the front edge of the box sides as shown below.

This image shows where holes are drilled into the sides of the box for the shelf support pegs.
Holes are drilled into the sides of the box for the shelf support pegs.
Here are store bought shelf support pegs were used to support the adjustable rack shelves.
Shelf Support Pegs were used here.
Unframed Works on Paper Storage in a Public Gallery Space

We cleaned up a poorly used closet off one of our gallery spaces and turned it into a works on paper storage and viewing space.

This is an image of a rack designed to support print storage boxes, designed to fit into the end of a closet.
This unit, designed to fit into the end of a closet, is perfect for storing works on paper.

We built shelves for thirty 16 x 20, fifteen 20 x 24, and sixteen 24 x 30 standard sized archival boxes to store unframed works on paper the gallery has in inventory.

This image shows two of three built-in pull-out shelves supply an instant scalable table, when needed, to work on.
The three built-in pull-out shelves supply an instant scalable table, when needed, to work on.

The three pull out shelves designed into the cabinet allow easy handling of the boxes and serves as a platform to show artworks to clients.

Although the shelves are thin, the majority of each box's weight is distributed around the outer edge of each shelf, close to where it meets the supporting sides.
Although the shelves are thin, the majority of each box’s weight is distributed around the outer edge of each shelf, close to where it meets the supporting sides.

Although the shelves are thin, they can handle the weight of a fully laden box because the weight is spread out across the entire shelf and the box is supported around the shelve’s edges.

This system of shelves can easily be designed to fit most anywhere.  For instance, if there was no room anywhere else in the house for storage, a sculpture stand could be made on wheels with shelves on one side allowing the unit to be turned against the wall to hide the boxes from view.  About the only place this type of box should not be placed is on the floor, especially under a bed.  (Artworks should never be stored under a bed.)

Housing Artworks In Gallery Storage Areas

At Valley House, the main storage area is not open to the public like in some galleries.  Because of this, the racks are designed for function, not looks.

This image shows one of the artwork storage areas in the gallery that is not open to the public. This particular area handles medium sized artwork.
This is one of the artwork storage areas in the gallery that is not open to the public. This particular area handles medium sized artwork.

The racks on this aisle are designed to handle mid-sized artworks.  The depth of the rack on the left is 54 inches deep. This depth was accomplished by designing 48 inch deep racks and moving them off the wall by 6 inches.  The 54 inch depth was chosen to allow a 48 inch wide painting with a large frame to fit the rack properly.  All the separators are 54 inches deep and hit the back wall to keep the artworks properly separated so they don’t scrape against each other when moved in and out.  The aisle between the racks is 56 inches wide.  This is so that, a painting can be pulled straight out of the rack without being obstructed by the opposing rack.

There are three 2 x 4’s that make up each of this rack’s vertical support sections.  Supports are on 24 inch centers so each shelf, made of carpeted 3/4 inch plywood,  has 22 1/2 inches of usable space.  This narrow shelf width will support most any two dimensional artwork that is placed on it.

The shelves in this section are held up by one of two types of support.  The first is a 1 inch wood dowel that is slipped into a 1 inch hole drilled through the side of each of the shelves’ 2 x 4 supports.  It was drilled taking into account the ultimate height of the shelf.  Depending on the length of the dowel, it can either go through the 2 x 4 and stop on the other side or stick out on both sides to provide support to the shelf next to it.

This image shows how dowels are used to hold shelves in place. In this case, a 1 inch hardwood dowel is inserted through a 2 x 4 support. Although not seen here, the dowel extends through the support to also hold the next shelf in place.
This shows how dowels are used to hold shelves in place. In this case, a 1 inch hardwood dowel is inserted through a 2 x 4 support. Although not seen here, the dowel extends through the support to also hold the next shelf in place.

The second type is a 1 x 2 inch stick, cut to the width of the 2 x 4.  Here it is drilled with counter sunk pilot holes and then affixed to the support with sheet rock screws at the height needed.  A 48 inch long 1 x 2 could have been used instead of the shorter ones if more support was necessary.

This image shows how a drilled and counter sunk 1 x 2 can also be used to support a shelf.
A drilled and counter sunk 1 x 2 can also be used to support a shelf.

In the same storage space, seen below is a rack designed for smaller scale framed works.  The structure is the same as the larger racks but this section is only 30 inches deep. Because the shelves have to support less weight, they are supported with a KV shelf support system.

The 2 x 4 supports have been routed to allow the KV clip rails to be flush with the surface of the 2 x 4.  This allows the shelves to properly fit between their supports.

This image shows how 2 x 4 supports were routed so KV clip rails fit flush allowing the shelves to do the same.
2 x 4 supports were routed so KV clip rails fit flush allowing the shelves to do the same.
 This image shows KV clips that are used to support the shelves.
KV clips

I hope these art storage solutions are helpful and inspire a plan to build proper storage for artworks that are on sabbatical.  Long term storage of artworks haphazardly stacked in a closet, or worse, under a bed is asking for trouble.

Following is a List of Things to Think About While You are Planning a Storage System for Your Collection.
  • Determine if you want on or off-site storage
  • Determine if you want other people to see your storage area as it may make a difference on how you want the racks finished out.
  • Determine how much storage you need now and project how much you will need in the future, considering what you are collecting and your collecting history.
  • Determine if you need climate-controlled storage for what you are collecting; works on paper will need it, but ceramics may not.  If you are not sure, consult a conservator in the field you are collecting.
  • Be sure that the width of the rack you design is, or is less than, 1/2 of the distance to whatever immovable object is in front of it, whether it is another facing rack or a wall.
  • Be sure that you consider the weight of the artworks you are planning to store and determine if the structure you are designing will support that weight comfortably.
  • With that in mind, be sure the distance between the vertical supports is not too great when designing your racks.  Remember that with every inch of extra distance between the vertical supports their is space for another artwork.   This extra weight may cause the shelf to bow and eventually fail. A shelf made from 3/4 inch plywood that is expected to support large glazed artworks should not be any wider than 24 inches.  To support really heavy works, there is nothing wrong with laminating two shelves together.
  • Always use cut pile carpet on a shelf rather than closed loop. The loops can catch on the edges of a frame or cause a wood frame to splinter while an artwork is being slid in or pulled out.
  • The separators used should be either foam core, fluted cardboard, or pure fluted polypropylene sheet.  Acid free fluted cardboard would be a preference over regular but is not always practical.  (Be sure to slide artworks slowly back and forth into their rack space.  This will help slow what I call “rack rash.”)
  • It is important that, whatever type is chosen, all separators properly fit the depth and height of the rack.  They should minimally stretch from the back of the rack or back stop to the front of the rack in length and be about 1/2 inch below the shelf above it in height. (Please do not use separators that are not the right depth.  You may not know when a short separator is not properly protecting the artwork next to it and damage can easily happen when a work is moved in and out.)
  • It is always a good idea to provide movable shelf supports so they can be moved when wanted.  However, it is my experience that once you have established heights for each shelf and have cut separators to the proper size, you will most likely not move the shelf heights again.

I have posted a related article on how and where to temporarily store two dimensional artworks in your home while a home renovation project is underway.

*****

For more information about safe handling of artwork, visit these other blog posts:

An image of a painting carefully placed in the back seat of a carPractical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork
An image of artworks carefully placed on on a bedTemporarily Storing Artwork: A Case

 

 

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.

Temporarily Storing Artwork: A Case Study

So, you have decided to paint the living room. While the workers do their thing, you have determined that the furniture can be moved to the center of the room and be protected via drop cloth, but where and how should you temporarily store your art for the next two weeks while the paint dries?

As with my post on transporting an artwork in your car, I will make suggestions on how to temporarily store artwork by safely stacking two-dimensional works against a wall using protective materials that would be found in your home or could be picked up at a local U-LINE, Lowes, or Home Depot. If you are lucky to live with museum quality works, you might want to call an art moving company to carefully pack and move them to a bonded climate-controlled storage facility and read no further. If your artworks are not of museum quality, carefully stacking them against a wall and providing protection at any points of contact can work just as well.

Deciding Where Your Artwork Should Be Stored

Choose a climate-controlled space to store your art. One of the best storage spaces might be a rarely used guest bedroom where the artworks are out of normal traffic patterns and the door can be shut to keep out roaming pets. A deadbolt lock installed on the door would also keep out wandering “guests.”

Since many homes these days have climate zoned spaces so you are not senselessly air conditioning rarely used areas, if the “guest bedroom” you are planning to use is not in a frequently used zone, be sure to adjust that zone’s temperature a day or two before you are planning to move the artwork. This will allow its temperature to normalize  to the rest of the house and confirm that the HVAC equipment is working properly. Remember the main things to worry about are temperature, humidity, and airflow. The atmosphere of the storage space should be close to the living room they came out of.

These images show the proper orientation of the artworks for storing them properly.
LEFT: Since this is an oil on canvas, it can be stacked and carried in any orientation. RIGHT: This hinged and glazed work on paper should only be stacked in its upright orientation so the weight of the lithograph will not tear the hinges that hold it to the back mat.

Find a wall where the largest artwork you are storing will fit so its entire top frame edge is fully resting against it. If the artwork is not a work on paper and not hinged, it can be place in any orientation, so its smallest side should be leaning against the wall. If it is a glazed work on paper and/or hinged, it needs to always be kept upright. If you have many artworks, they can be divided into multiple stacks, especially if there is a lot of weight involved or a large size differential between artworks. It is often a good idea to group the works in general size categories, like large, medium, and small, and stack them accordingly.

The bed in a spare bedroom is a great place to temporarily store small artworks. If they are to be covered, to keep dust off them, only use a thin transparent plastic drop cloth so it is obvious that there is art on the bed.  Be sure to keep pets out of the room.
The bed in a spare bedroom is a great place to temporarily store small artworks. If they are to be covered, to keep dust off them, only use a thin transparent plastic drop cloth so it is obvious that there is art on the bed.  Be sure to keep pets out of the room.

If there is a bed in the room, place an old sheet over its bedspread and then lay the smaller works face up across the bed so they are not touching each other.   The sheet will keep your bedspread from getting dirty from dusty frame backs.  Although for the short term it is not necessary, if you are concerned about dust, cover the artworks loosely with a thin clear plastic drop cloth so anyone entering the room can see that there is artwork covering the bed.

Here are two 2x4 wood risers that will keep a stack of artworks off the floor.  This should help protect your artwork from a possible water leak.
Here are two 2×4 wood risers that will keep a stack of artworks off the floor.  This should help protect your artwork from a possible water leak.

Since water leaks do happen, I highly recommend placing something on the floor to stack the artworks on. This could be a couple of 2 x 4 boards placed perpendicular to the wall and far enough apart so the artworks straddle them comfortably, or setting a folded fold-up table on the floor against the wall and placing a rubber backed bathmat on it so the artworks will not slide on the table top.

Do not stack the artwork over or in front of an HVAC register or return. It is alright to stack the works next to a return but not a vent that would blow hot or cold air directly onto the artwork. Be especially careful of large light canvases, as they can easily be blown over if a vent is blowing air behind a leaning work.

Note: As these artworks may have been hanging in your living room for a very long time, take the opportunity, as each is taken down, to dust the backside of their frames before moving them to where they will be stored.

Preparing and Properly Stacking Your Artworks

The type of artwork and how it is framed will determine how it should be stacked against a wall. In an ideal situation each artwork would be properly wrapped for its type and how it is framed, and then each would be boxed or at least separated by a sheet of fluted cardboard, foam core, sheet insulation or other type of light stiff separator. Since we are talking about stacking the artwork against a wall for a couple of weeks, following a few rules of thumb will achieve pretty much the same outcome without all the packing. So, here are a few thoughts and suggestions on how to prepare and stack your artworks.

Create a Working Inventory

Create an inventory of the works you will be moving to your designated storage space. Index cards work well here as they can be put in the order they will be moved and stacked. Be sure that along with the information that identifies each artwork, you include the artworks’ total framed dimensions, including their depth. Also note if any of the artworks’ supports are paper and are glazed as this will normally indicate that they must be stacked upright. You may want to circle the hinged artworks, showing you cannot change their orientation the way you can, in most cases, with an oil on canvas or panel. The cards should be sorted so that the largest work is on top and the smallest is on the bottom.

Note: As opposed to the way almost everything else in the universe is measured, artworks are measured using height before width, and then depth.

Take a tape measure to the space you are planning to store the works and make sure that the largest artwork will fit the available wall space considering its proper orientation.

This shows two strips of foam core placed on top of the 2x4 risers. If used, they will help protect fragile frame finishes from damage while in the stack.
This shows two strips of foam core placed on top of the 2×4 risers. If used, they will help protect fragile frame finishes from damage while in the stack.
Using Risers to Raise Artwork Above the Floor Level

To determine the length of the risers that will keep the artworks off the floor, let’s say they are 2 x 4 boards, add up all the depth measurements on the cards you anticipate will be in the largest stack and add 12 inches to account for the separators if you are planning to use them. Also consider the angle against the wall of the first artwork in the stack. It does not matter if the boards are a bit too long, you just don’t want them to be too short. The risers should be placed perpendicular to the wall and far enough apart so the smallest artwork in the stack will sit on top of them. If the frames are fragile, you may want to cut two 3.5-inch strips off one of your separators and place it on the 2 x 4 risers before you start stacking artworks.

General Rules for Stacking
Both of these diagrams show proper stacking technique. Each artwork is placed so it has at least two points of contact with the artwork that was stacked before it.
Both of these diagrams show proper stacking technique. Each artwork is placed so it has at least two points of contact with the artwork that was stacked before it.
If no dividers are used when stacking and there are no backings on the artworks themselves, then the last three artworks in the stack at left and the last artwork added to the stack at right are improperly placed and will be pushing into the back of the artwork in front of each.
If no dividers are used when stacking and there are no backings on the artworks themselves, then the last three artworks in the stack at left and the last artwork added to the stack at right are improperly placed and will be pushing into the back of the artwork in front of each.

As a general rule, artworks should be stacked in a graduated order with the largest against the wall and the smallest being the last work added. If the first work placed is facing the wall and it is backed or has stretcher braces, it may have a smaller work stacked against it.

LEFT: If an oil on canvas has stretcher supports, a smaller artwork can be stacked against it when separators are not available. RIGHT: This is also true if an oil on canvas is backed with a cardboard or foam core.
LEFT: If an oil on canvas has stretcher supports, a smaller artwork can be stacked against it when separators are not available. RIGHT: This is also true if an oil on canvas is backed with a cardboard or foam core.

If the artwork is not backed or has stretcher braces, each new work that is added to the stack, whether using sheet separators or not, should either match or exceed its predecessor in either height or width, not both. This way, it will span an unprotected canvas and have at least two points of contact at the top, or upper sides of its frame.

Illustrated are three materials that will work as separators when stacking artworks. The top is 3/4 inch foam insulation board, the middle is foam core, and the bottom is fluted cardboard.
Illustrated are three materials that will work as separators when stacking artworks. The top is 3/4 inch foam insulation board, the middle is foam core, and the bottom is fluted cardboard.
Using Separator Sheets to Protect Artworks

As mentioned above, it is always best to use separators between each artwork in a stack. I would recommend sheets of fluted cardboard, foam core, sheet insulation or other type of light stiff separator material. For each artwork added to the stack, place a separator sheet that is larger than the work it is placed in front of. That does not mean that it needs to be cut down to fit, it just means that the sheet should not be smaller.

This shows artworks stacked with separators between each work. This provides the most protection for each unwrapped artwork in the stack. Note that the third separator from the end of the stack is sideways to properly cover the artwork behind it.
This shows artworks stacked with separators between each work. This provides the most protection for each unwrapped artwork in the stack. Note that the third separator from the end of the stack is sideways to properly cover the artwork behind it.

Note: Do not use soft materials to cover or wrap artworks such as blankets or sheets unless they are all glazed and backed works. Cotton blankets would be preferred over wool, especially if the artworks are pastels. Pastels should never be stored with their faces at a forward angle or face down. It would be best to place a glazed pastel, face up, on a bed.

If you don't have enough separators to put one between each artwork, you can stack the artworks front-to-front and back-to-back placing a separator between the artwork's faces
If you don’t have enough separators to put one between each artwork, you can stack the artworks front-to-front and back-to-back placing a separator between the artwork’s faces.

If you have more artworks than separator sheets, the face-to-face, back-to-back method of stacking may be appropriate. That means you should start your stack with a separator sheet against the wall and then place the first artwork, so it faces the wall and the top of its frame is in contact with the separator sheet and not with the wall. The second artwork should be placed, using the “at least two points of contact” rule, with its back to the first work. Then place a separator sheet against the face of the second work and repeat the process.

When separators are not available, artworks can be stacked front-to-front and back-to-back making sure that each artwork added has at least two points of contact with the artwork in front of it.  Where two artworks touch in the face -to-face configuration, washcloths can be used to pad the frames at the points where the frames touch.
When separators are not available, artworks can be stacked front-to-front and back-to-back making sure that each artwork added has at least two points of contact with the artwork in front of it.  Where two artworks touch in the face -to-face configuration, washcloths can be used to pad the frames at the points where the frames touch.
Stacking Without Separator Sheets

If you are planning on stacking without separator sheets, certainly not recommended by me, you have to be extra careful how and where each artwork makes contact with the artwork in front and behind it, and the “at least two points of contact rule” needs to be strictly adhered to. Also, if their weight and center of gravity is not a problem, they should, in most cases, be stacked face-to-face and back-to-back. When stacking, the artworks that are placed back-to-back should be touching all around. The works that are stacked face-to-face should not touch except at two upper points of contact. Where the frames touch, two folded washcloths can be used as protection by laying them over the frame where the contact is made.

Note: While works are stacked this way, they should remain undisturbed until they are unstacked to be reinstalled. Do not pull several works in the stack forward to show off a work, and under no circumstances pull a work from the center of the stack. If a work is needed, carefully unstack the works back to that artwork.

The Issue of Weight

Weight is a factor that may determine how many works should be in each stack. Large glazed works with heavy frames weigh a lot. You may not want to place any more than three or four works in a stack of artworks like this. Canvases with strip molding may not weigh a lot and therefore it might be realistic to stack more. Bottom line; you don’t want to stack so many artworks together that a single person could lose control of it if they were supporting it while another person was flipping through the artworks.

Determining an Artwork’s Center of Gravity

You will need to determine the center of gravity for the first artwork that starts a stack and ideally, each artwork that follows as they are placed. This can be determined by setting each artwork vertically on the floor in the orientation it will be stacked. It will normally want to fall forward or back depending on its center of gravity. (Whichever way it wants to fall, that is the side that should face the wall.) This means that if you are using separators between each artwork, they should be stacked in the direction that they would naturally fall. Works that do not easily fall one way or the other have a neutral center of gravity so they can be safely stacked either way.

Properly Setting the Angle of the First Artwork

The angle at which the first artwork is placed against the wall in a stack is very important! If the angle is too little, even if you have determined that its center of gravity will tend for it to naturally hug the wall, it sets up a situation where if other artworks are not stacked properly, it could allow the stack to fall. On the other hand, if the angle is too much, it will place undue stress on the stack because with every degree of extra angle added, the stack becomes progressively heavier with the first artwork that started the stack bearing the greatest weight. Also, instead of the possibility of the artworks that are stacked with too narrow an angle falling over, too much of an angle could cause the artworks at the end of the stack to start sliding out from the bottom. Also, the change of angle related to the height of the artwork also must be considered.

It is best to keep these issues in mind when determining how far the bottom of the first artwork should be away from the wall when setting the stack. Unfortunately, there is no formula that I know of that is a standard rule of thumb to determine the perfect angle, especially with all the unknown variables when you start. So, the best I can do is let you know how I do it:

I place the top of the first artwork so the side to which it naturally wants to fall is against the separator sheet that is leaning against the wall and its bottom is sitting on the riser about 4 inches away from the wall. I then pull the top of the artwork away from the wall about an inch to feel the weight of its resistance. If it seems too little, I will move the artwork’s bottom away from the wall another inch and try again until it feels right. If it seems like it is heavy or has too much resistance, I would move the artwork’s bottom toward the wall an inch and try again until the resistance feels right. Then I continue stacking other artworks between separators until I think stacking more would endanger the first artwork or make the stack unstable. I test the resistance of each added artwork as it is placed to be sure it is properly weighted towards the previously stacked work. 

I focused on a guest bedroom as a good place to store artworks for this post because most guest bedrooms are properly climate controlled and rarely entered, making them an ideal location for storing artwork. Remember, because of change orders or unexpected issues that pop up during most any renovation project, they are rarely finished on time. For this reason, it is best to store your artworks where they will not be disturbed until they are ready to be put back on the wall. Having to unstack the artwork and move it to a safer location and then restack it will unnecessarily put the artwork in danger.

I hope you have found the information in this post helpful. Although I have mentioned a way to stack the artworks without using separators, I recommend using them. They will provide a higher level of protection to both the artwork and frames, especially if there is a situation where the stack falls over for some reason.

If your storage needs exceed the short term, you may have interest in reading my post, Four Artwork Storage Solutions.   In the meantime, happy stacking.

*****

For more information about safe handling of artwork, visit these other blog posts:

An image of a painting carefully placed in the back seat of a carPractical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork

 

an image of a wall of shelves holding print boxesFour Artwork Storage Solutions

 

 

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For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.

Practical Tips for Safely Transporting Artwork.

Artworks are often at their most vulnerable when they are in transit, especially if the person who is transporting them is inexperienced.  So to ease the stress and anxiety of doing so,  I though I would share some practical tips for safely transporting artwork in your own vehicle.

For this post, I thought it would be helpful to offer some suggestions as to how to safely transport a single two-dimensional artwork in a personal vehicle.  As most people do not have professional packing supplies at home, I will focus on using household items such as blankets, large garbage bags and pillows to be used sensibly in protecting the artwork when it is placed in the automobile.

All the suggestions I have made below come from over 45 years of experience in packing artwork in just about every type of vehicle, and from seeing how artworks have been delivered to us by non-professionals.  Every situation is different and none of the suggestions I am making will protect the artwork or you in a serious accident.  These suggestions are just “guidelines.”

Will it Fit?

It may sound rudimentary, but whether you are taking an artwork from home to another location or heading out to pick up a new acquisition from a gallery, it is always a good idea to measure the artwork and the space in your vehicle where you are planning on securing it, to see if it will comfortably fit.   Also, where it will be placed in the vehicle, the type of artwork, and how it is framed will all determine if it needs to be wrapped, and if so, what level of protection is required.  Once that is determined, take that overall packed size into account when measuring.

If you are picking up an artwork, say from a gallery, remember that if it is framed, the size of the artwork documented on the bill of sale or in the catalog of the show is the actual artwork size, not its overall framed size.  Call the galley and ask them to measure the overall size of the artwork before driving across town to find out that it will not fit in your vehicle.  Also, it’s not a bad idea to let the preparator of the gallery know where you are planning to place the artwork in your vehicle, and where, so they can pack it accordingly and then provide you with its overall packed size before you leave to pick it up.

This image shows how to cushion an artwork to ride in the back of an four door sedan. Pillows on each side will keep it from falling left or right.
There are three things that would improve the way this artwork has been placed in the back seat of this automobile: ONE – It is difficult to tell from this photograph, because of the angle from which it was taken, that the artwork is an oil on canvas and painted in a vertical format. Because its orientation does not matter here, it would have been better to place the artwork sideways to lower its center of gravity. If it had been a hinged work on paper, it would have had to ride vertically so that the effects of gravity would not break a hinge. TWO – If I was packing this for a client at my gallery, since this is an unbacked oil on canvas, I would have not used the blanket behind the artwork, but instead, placed a piece of fluted cardboard, foam core, or 3/4 inch insulation foam, both behind, and in front of the artwork, that was larger than the outer dimension of the artwork’s frame.  I did not use these here because most people do not have these materials readily available.  THREE –  Pillows should be placed between the artwork’s frame and the door of the automobile on both sides so the artwork will not shift sideways while the vehicle is turning.

Is it Safe?

Be sure to think about where the artwork is being placed in the vehicle and what will happen if you must maneuver quickly left or right, slam on the breaks, or worse, get hit by another vehicle.  Is it packed and placed in the car in such a way that, if any of these things happen, you and others will be safe from its movement?  Will the artwork sustain minimal damage because of how it is packed?

It is important to remove any loose objects from the space in which the artwork is to be placed for travel unless the object is being used as part of the bracing or packing process.  We must often move tennis rackets, golf clubs, gym bags and other things from a client’s trunk or back seat before placing an artwork inside their vehicle.

It is best not to take a pet along with you when you transport art.  If you must, be sure they are restrained or not able to get into the area where the artwork is placed.  I have seen both cats and dogs happily prance across an unprotected canvas in the back of a vehicle.  The attention you are paying to your driving will diminish greatly if “Fluffy” decides to take a walk across your newly purchased Monet waterlily painting while you are changing lanes on a freeway.

Preparing Artwork for Transport

I am assuming for this post that you are not planning to wrap the artwork with anything other a plastic trash bag.  Most galleries are happy to wrap a work in bubble wrap or other appropriate material if they know you are coming.  Most of the suggestions I offer here can be modified to take into account a wrapped work.

If an artwork on paper is wrapped in an opaque material, it needs to have something on the outside that tells you which side is up and which side is the face of the artwork. If it is carried or transported sideways, the weight of the paper can tear the hinges that are holding the artwork in place.
If an artwork on paper is wrapped in an opaque material, it needs to have something on the outside that tells you which side is up and which side is the face of the artwork. If it is carried or transported sideways, the weight of the paper can tear the hinges that are holding the artwork in place.

Be sure that if you wrap a framed and glazed artwork on paper in an opaque material so you are unable to tell which side of the artwork is up, that you mark it in some way to identify its face and top.  A face drawn on the front of the package or a piece of painter’s tape with “TOP” written on it works well.  Works on paper need to be carried with the hinges at the top so they do not tear or pull free because they were carried sideways.  In the business, when a hinge pulls free separating the work on paper from where it was mounted, we say that the artwork “slipped its hinge.”  A phrase every dealer hates to hear.

So, here are several common ways two-dimensional artworks are normally transported in a personal vehicle and my suggestions on the best way to protect them using household materials.

Transporting an Artwork in a Trunk

If your trunk is empty and your artwork comfortably fits; if your destination is not far and you are traveling without other stops; if it is not raining and the temperature is not too extreme; then the carpeted trunk of an automobile is the ideal place for an artwork to travel and you will probably not need to have it wrapped at all.  Since it is separated from you and your passengers, it is also the safest way.

Unglazed Artwork:

If the artwork is not glazed and does not fit snugly, place an open blanket on the bottom of the trunk so the area where the artwork will sit is completely flat.  Place the artwork on top of the flat area of the blanket and roll under the outer edges of the blanket like a jelly roll so they form a barrier around the artwork as illustrated below.   Make sure the furthest edge of the artwork is resting against the far end of the trunk, closest to the back seat.  This will pad all the artwork’s sides and keep it from quickly sliding forward and banging into the back of the trunk during a quick stop.  It is my recommendation to never place a blanket over an unglazed work, especially if the artwork’s support is stretched canvas.

Image showing how an artwork should be placed on a flat blanket with its top resting against the front of the carpeted trunk. The sides of the blanket are rolled underneath on each side so it snugs against the frame on its left and right side.
The artwork is placed on a flat blanket with its top resting against the front of the carpeted trunk. The sides of the blanket are rolled underneath on each side so it snugs against the frame on its left and right side.
The part of the blanket that was sitting over the edge of the trunk has been rolled underneath in the same way the sides were rolled. It was then snugged down between the closest end of the artwork and the back of the trunk to keep the artwork from sliding backward.

Note: About one in every three people who bring artworks to the gallery cover or wrap them in a blanket thinking they are protecting their artwork and its frame if it has one.  This is not much of an issue if the artwork is glazed and the glazing is intact.  However, if it is an old unglazed oil on stretched canvas that is starting to flake, laying a heavy blanket on it can cause expensive-to-repair damage.  For instance, the weight of the blanket can push down on the canvas causing it to become concave and stressed.  The act of placing a blanket on the work and taking it off can cause any dry impasto or already damaged areas to flake off.  It can also break off partially secured areas of a fragile frame.

This artwork arrived at the gallery with this blanket wrapped around it. To most people, this is a logical way to protect the artwork in transit. In actuality, it is a terrible idea as any loose paint can flake off as the blanket moves over the painting's surface. It would be much safer to have nothing over it at all, or to have used the blanket to pad and block the bottom of the artwork from sliding forward on the seat.
This artwork arrived at the gallery with this blanket wrapped around it. To most people, this is a logical way to protect the artwork in transit. In actuality, it is a terrible idea as any loose paint can flake off as the blanket moves over the painting’s surface. It would be much safer to have nothing over it at all, or to have used the blanket to pad and block the bottom of the artwork from sliding forward on the seat.
Glazed Artwork:

If the artwork is glazed with glass, a blanket can be place beneath and around the artwork as previously described.  If more protection is needed, a soft blanket can also be laid over the artwork and folded around it.  If an over blanket is used, remove it before picking up the artwork to be sure it is carried upright.

Note:  Always carry an artwork upright facing you, holding it with two hands from both sides.  It is not a good idea to carry it from the top of the frame, and it is best not to carry it around by its hanging wire if it has one.  You are making a lot of assumptions by doing so and you have much less control over the artwork.

This is the proper way to carry most any small to medium sized two-dimensional work of art. It faces the man carrying the artwork and it is being held with two hands on each side of the painting keeping the artwork's orientation up. Notice that it is being carried slightly to the side so it does not restrict the man from seeing where he is going. Also, if for any reason the artwork is dropped, the man will not fall into the painting.
This is the proper way to carry most any small to medium sized two-dimensional work of art. It faces the man carrying the artwork and it is being held with two hands on each side of the painting keeping the artwork’s orientation up. Notice that it is being carried slightly to the side so it does not restrict the man from seeing where he is going. Also, if for any reason the artwork is dropped, the man will not fall into the painting.

If the artwork is glazed with plexiglass and you believe it needs to be covered with a blanket for extra protection, put a plastic bag over it first followed by the blanket, wrapping it around the edges of the frame.  This will prevent the plexiglass from being scratched by the blanket.  If it is raining, you might want to place the artwork in the plastic bag making sure to identify the front and top of the artwork by marking it somehow before taking it to your vehicle.

Transporting an Artwork in the Back Seat.

Transporting artworks in the back seat area of an automobile is not optimal for many reasons but sometimes, because of an artwork’s size and the circumstances, it is all that’s available.  So, if it is the only option, here are my recommendations to transport the artwork as safely as possible. When doing so, please drive like you have a baby in the back seat.

All automobiles are a little different.  You can measure to determine that an artwork will fit in between the front and back seats, but there are other factors to consider, and one of them is the artwork’s depth.  The back door at its fully open position, window down, may not allow an artwork of your measured size to fit past the back seat, and the drivetrain hump in the middle of the back seat floorboard may be an issue.  Remember, the designers of your automobile’s back doors thought only about people’s ability to get in and out, they did not care, nor even think about, your need to transport artwork.

Again, be sure that the back seat and floorboards are clear of any loose objects.  It is not a good idea to have a loose bowling ball sitting on the back seat behind an artwork.

Transporting a Small Artwork in the Back Seat Area

A small work is best placed on the floorboard facing forward on either side of the drivetrain hump if the vehicle has one.  It should be placed at an angle where the bottom of the frame touches the front seat back, and the artwork’s top back side leans against the front of the back seat.  To protect the bottom of the frame from any hard surfaces behind the front seat, something needs to be used as a buffer.  If the car has floor mats, push the mat forward and curl it up to protect the bottom of the frame where it sits against the back of the front seat.  If it doesn’t, a rolled towel will do the trick.

A small work of art that fits between the drivetrain hump and the automobile’s back door can be leaned up against the front of the back seat. To protect the frame from rubbing against the front seat’s attachment points, I have flipped the carpeted floor mat around and pushed it forward while bending it up behind the front seat. This provides a carpeted area for the frame to rest behind the front seat. Since this is not a glazed work on paper, it can be placed sideways to fit the space.

I recommend that smaller works not be placed on the back seat itself, either upright or flat, unless there is something between the front and back seats that will keep the work from falling to the floorboard in a sudden stop.  If there is something there that is about the same height of the seat, like a soft gym bag, then a medium size artwork can be placed flat on the rear seat extending over the built-up space between the front and back seats.

Transporting a Medium Sized Artwork in the Back Seat Area

Most often, a larger work will need to be placed between the front and back seats, facing forward.  After you know that the artwork will fit, there are four contact points that need to be considered.  Also, if the artwork is a hinged work on paper in a vertical format, for reasons we discussed earlier, do not turn it sideways to get it to fit.

Contact Point One:  The Front Edge of the Back Seat
Be cautious of sharp objects on the back of artworks. The metal wire could scratch your back seat upholstery. A bath towel laid over the back seat for the artwork to lean against would solve this problem.
The metal wire could scratch your back seat upholstery. A bath towel laid over the back seat for the artwork to lean against would solve this problem.

Glazed works on paper are most often backed and therefore, a medium sized work on paper can ride with its back side against the back seat, so long as any exposed hardware will not potentially cause damage to your back seat upholstery.  A blanket hanging over the glazed artwork can prevent this. (Remember to bag the piece if it is glazed with Plexiglas and mark its face and top before putting a blanket over it.)

The artwork on the left is at the greatest risk at having its canvas pushed forward by a protruding seat back. The center artwork has a support bar down the center of the canvas that will help protect it from a convex back seat front edge. The foam core backing on the third artwork will protect it completely from a convex or protruding back seat front edge.

A framed or unframed stretched canvas that does not have a backing may be at risk, depending on the design of your vehicle’s back seat.  If the seat has a convex shape or has areas that protrude, it may push into the back of the canvas, stretching it out of shape.  This is less likely if the canvas has a vertical stretcher brace down the middle that will rest against the seat, keeping the seat from touching the canvas.  Without that brace, even if the artwork is packed in bubble wrap, it may be at greater risk from the convex back seat as it could push the bubble into the back of the canvas, placing even more pressure on it.

Here are three products that are often used to separate and protect artworks: fluted cardboard below, foam core in the middle and 3/4 inch foam insulation material on top. The foam core and insulation material will protect sensitive finishes like gold leaf frames. Fluted cardboard’s surface is not as smooth and it is better to have a plastic bag over a frame with a sensitive finish if it is used.

If no brace is present, there needs to be a flat support behind the artwork, or something else, protecting it from the front of the back seat.  The support can be a piece or corrugated (fluted) cardboard, foam insulation, or other stiff material cut to the same size or a little larger than the overall artwork.  If these materials are not available, a properly folded blanket can hold the artwork off the seat back to prevent damage to the canvas.

Place the blanket on the ground and roll both sides so the outer sides match the width of the paintings frame.
Place the painting on the blanket to be sure the width of each roll is the size of both the stretcher and frame of the artwork.
Roll one of the ends of the blanket until it is a little longer than the width of the back seat; at least long enough for it to hang over the front of the back seat about 6 inches with the rolled end against the back of the seat.

If no flat material is available, roll a blanket from two sides so the distance between the rolls matches the back of the stretcher and the artwork’s frame, and then hang the blanket over the edge of the back seat so it provides a buffer that will keep the canvas from touching the front edge of the back seat.

This image shows how the blanket should be situated behind the artwork with the side rolls under its stretcher and frame. If the blanket is touching the open canvas between the rolls anywhere, start over and roll the sides tighter to push the frame further forward. Note the bath towels supporting the frame corners on either side of the carpeted drivetrain hump.
Contact Point Two: The Floorboard, the Drivetrain Hump, and the Console

The next thing to think about is where the bottom front edge of the artwork meets the bottom of the front seat or the back of the console that divides the two front seats.  A floor mat, a rolled-up towel or a piece of clothing can act as a protective buffer to hold the artwork in place and protect it from any metal or hard plastic parts under the front seat or the back of the console.  If the artwork is now balancing on the drivetrain hump, you can roll towels or two strips of bubble wrap and place them under each corner to keep the artwork from listing over one way or the other while driving.

Contact Point Three:  Protecting the Front of the Artwork.

In a sudden stop or head-on accident, the entire artwork will try to move forward.  If it is wrapped in bubble and has a stiff sheet material in front of it like 3/4 inch foam insulation, corrugated cardboard, or foam core, it will sustain less damage than it would without it.  If the artwork is glazed with glass, the bubble pack would help contain any broken glass shards.  Since we are talking primarily about using household materials, if it is glazed with glass, a blanket over the entire work that is tucked in under the bottom of the frame near each bottom corner, to keep it from tilting back and forth on the hump, is a good idea.

Contact Point Four:  Protecting the Sides of the Artwork

After the artwork has been placed safely into the back between the front and back seats, lower both back windows and close both back doors carefully to be sure they do not hit the artwork or its frame.   If there is room, snug blankets or pillows on either side of the artwork and doors through the open windows so the artwork will not slide side to side while the vehicle is turning.  Roll the windows up and you’re set to go.

Transporting a Large Artwork Flat in the Back of an SUV.

It is always a good idea to know the maximum usable rectangular dimension of the back of your SUV with the back seats down.  So you will only have to measure that once, write these dimensions on the underside of the hatch door next to the auto close button if you have one, with an indelible marker.

The advantage of laying almost any two-dimensional artwork flat on its back is that, if the entire back of the artwork is touching a flat surface, the artwork and the entire frame assembly housing it are all experiencing the least amount of stress possible.  Also, while in transit, you don’t have to worry which side is up on a hinged work on paper as it really doesn’t matter when it is in this position.

If the work is not packed, set the artwork face up so that the edge of the frame is touching the back of the driver and passenger seats. This way it will not slide forward and hit them in a sudden stop.  Placing the artwork on a flat blanket and rolling the sides up to the frame will also protect the artwork’s edges if it slides.  A folded blanket behind the artwork will help keep it from sliding back when accelerating.  As discussed above, be sure there are no loose objects at the back of the SUV that might slide forward onto the artwork in a sudden stop.

If you want the artwork hidden, and it is a work on paper glazed with glass, a single layer of blanket can be placed over the artwork to hide it.  If it is glazed with Plexiglas, it would be better not to use a blanket but instead, place a bed sheet over the work so it does not scratch.  If it is an unglazed framed or unframed canvas and the paint is completely dry, a single layer of a light plastic opaque drop cloth is a good solution.  Be sure that when it is removed, it is not dragged across the artworks surface but is carefully lifted off.

If you are concerned about moving an artwork yourself, get several quotes from professional art moving companies.  Even though they are generally more expensive than furniture moving companies, they carry the proper packing and securing materials on their trucks.  Every time we have had furniture movers pick up art at our gallery for various design projects, they have never brought large stiff sheets of foam core or corrugated cardboard to separate or pack artworks with them on their trucks.  They only have blankets and stretch wrap.  We have often had to loan them the proper materials and diplomatically explain how to use them.  They are skilled at blanket wrapping almost any piece of furniture, but you don’t want your fragile unglazed Jackson Pollock to be blanket wrapped and then tied up to the side of a truck.  You will be spending a lot of time and money with your conservator if you let that happen.

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For more information about safe handling of artwork, visit these other blog posts:

An image of artworks carefully placed on on a bedTemporarily Storing Artwork: A Case Study
an image of a wall of shelves holding print boxesFour Artwork Storage Solutions

 

 

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For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.