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Artwork Storage Tips For Artists + Collectors

Perhaps you’re an art collector, or just someone with a few valuable paintings you want to protect during a life transition such as moving homes or a death in the family. Or maybe you’re making a living as an artist, where there’s plenty of incentive to sell each and every piece. We’ve all got bills to pay, but what happens when you make it big in the art scene and the demand for your originals skyrockets? It might pay in the long run to hold on to a few works, sort of an investment in your own art. With these needs in mind, we’ll go over a few helpful hints for putting artwork in storage.

Staying cool and collected
When it comes to storing artwork, there are no more crucial factors than temperature or humidity. Cracks and warping are just two of the dangers presented by fluctuating climate, so talk to your self-storage manager about climate control options. Many facilities provide dehumidifiers for their climate-controlled units. To ensure the safety and longevity of your artwork, maintain a level of 40-50% humidity and a temperature range of 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re comfortable, your stored items will be as well.

Wrapping it up
Choose which of your works you plan to store, and prep them accordingly. Keep in mind that fresh paintings take varying amounts of time for the curing process (basically, the evaporation of a solvent in the paint making it soft and spreadable), depending upon the type of paint used. While oils can take between 6-12 months to fully cure, latex-based paints may cure within days or weeks. It is recommended that you wait until paintings have fully cured to protect against scratches and stains.

Wrap your paintings in material that protects from dust, scratching and bugs while allowing air to circulate. Tissue paper, breathable sheets or blankets, and foam are all viable options for protecting your artwork in storage. Avoid plastic wrap and bubble wrap, as these materials will block air circulation and trap condensation, leading to water damage. Canvas paintings should be supported with a backing board of either wood or sturdy cardboard.

Transporting art can be one of the most dangerous procedures, and should be approached carefully. That doesn’t mean you need to delve into your pocketbook to afford safe transport methods, although if you can afford it, there are plenty of online vendors who sell tools and materials specifically designed for this purpose. For a more DIY approach, check out these cool solutions to packaging and transporting your artwork.

Canvas paintings are usually attached to a wooden frame called a “stretcher” or “strainer,” designed to easily expand and stretch the painting with expandable corner joints. Stretch your canvases to be taut (a process called “keying out” your painting) during warmer, more humid months when wood has expanded to compensate for contracting in colder months (avoid keying out during the winter, because there is danger that the frame will later expand and tear the painting.)

Making arrangements
When you’ve successfully packaged your artwork, the next step is to stow it so it is both accessible and safe from damage. Shelving is your best bet, but if that isn’t an option, you can opt for pallets or wooden slats to keep your art off the ground. This will protect from water damage and allow air circulation. Sensitive pieces can crack and puncture from the weight of frames and paintings stacked on top of them. Artwork should be stored vertically, in order of smallest to largest.

Make sure you’ve separated each painting with a couple layers of material (again, felt, foam or cloth are great options to protect and breathe) to insure against damage from shifting. Framing is one of the best ways to prevent many kinds of damage, but these methods can be applied to most works of art, framed and unframed.

If you decide to roll up some of your artwork, make sure the paint is rolled to the outside. Rolling paint side in will increase the likelihood of cracking and warping. While space may dictate the necessity for rolling some of your paintings, keep in mind that acrylic and latex-based paints are much more flexible and easy to roll than oils.

Putting on a show
If you have amassed an extensive collection and feel your artwork isn’t receiving the exposure it deserves, consider opening up your unit for display and inviting some friends and critics in for a unique viewing party. While lighting is scarce within the units, most facilities should have outlets in the hallways you can utilize. Hanging racks may be made available by the facility, but you can also find them at any home improvement store. Alternatively, adhesive hangers can be easily applied and removed from the walls of your unit for a quick fix.

Words: William Cameron

November, 2022

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