Art Storage Tips for Your Fine Art Collection

 In Conservation / Maintenance

Keep Your Art Collection Looking Great with these Art Storage Tips.

Art is meant to be seen and enjoyed, and the best storage area that most of us have is right there on the walls of our climate-controlled homes. Occasionally, however, it becomes necessary, especially for avid collectors, to store art—either temporarily or long-term. By following a few safety guidelines, you can protect the value and appearance of your collection for many years to come.

Best location for storing your art

Unfortunately, two of the most common storage places in most homes, the attic and basement, are also the worst environments for storing valuables. A typical day in the attic consists of dramatic swings of both extreme temperature and humidity. A basement is usually better for temperature, but here the enemy is humidity.

The best storage option is a climate controlled environment with only modest temperature fluctuations and relative humidity between 40 and 50%. Humidity under 30% can lead to dry rot — above 60% induces mold.

A basement can work well providing you control the humidity and it remains dry — even in flood conditions. Check the humidity with a humidistat throughout the year. Winter’s are often quite dry compared to summer’s which can be very humid — especially in the southeast. If necessary, install a dehumidifier and/or humidifier to regulate the humidity.

Protect your art

Do not store, or hang for that matter, your art where it is exposed to direct sunlight. The powerful rays of the sun will quickly fade color—even so called permanent colors.

Keep your storage area clean and free from pests. Creepy-crawlys such as silverfish, roaches, flies, termites, moths, beetles and mice (and more) can wreak havoc on an art collection. Plastic sheeting and storage containers can provide protection against critters, dust and an unexpected water leak.

Other art storage tips:

  • Store stretched canvas paintings on their edge. Storing a canvas flat will result in canvas sag.
  • Protect the painting surface. The best protection from abrasion is the space that a frame will provide. Cardboard liners or plastic sleeves also work well.
  • Never lean anything against a canvas. If you must lean several unframed canvases together, temporarily, be sure to lean them against the corner of the wood frame, not the canvas.
  • Paper media, such as charcoal, pastel or watercolor renderings, should be protected with a rigid flat substrate. Storing it framed behind glass works well. If the work is not framed, sandwich it between acid free paper and cardboard or foam core board.
  • Unlike canvas paintings, paper media, if not secured tightly between a rigid substrate, should be stored horizontally. Flat lateral file systems work well for this.

Following these few simple precautions, will enable you to safely conserve your valuable fine art for future generations.

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