artwork inventory

Storing Works of Art on Paper

When prints and drawings are not framed and displayed, it is crucial to store them properly. Whether you have a few prints to keep safe or are building large-scale storage solutions, there are a few main concerns, solutions, and best practices to keep in mind when storing works of art on paper.

We recently acquired these works of art on paper for a corporate client. Millee Tibbs,  Air/Plains series , 2013

We recently acquired these works of art on paper for a corporate client. Millee Tibbs, Air/Plains series, 2013

Keeping Paper Safe

All artwork should be handled carefully, but works of art on paper can be especially delicate. Paper can fold, curl, crumple, or easily tear when it is not matted and framed. Keeping the paper flat and secure is a primary concern in the storage of prints and drawings. This can be achieved by storing works in frames, in stacked mats, or in archival boxes. Paper used in older works is often not archival–meaning its chemical composition inevitably breaks down–and the paper becomes more brittle as it ages. Storing works properly can help mitigate damage to older pieces. Today, many works of art are specifically made on archival paper to prevent decay. 

Protecting Pigment

The medium used to create an image on the paper can also impact storage and conservation efforts. Over time, ink used in prints can off-gas onto other surfaces. If the print is stored in a frame with glass, the print can sometimes leave a faint “ghost” film where chemicals from the ink have interacted with the glass. If a print is stored in a stack with other loose prints, it can off-gas onto the other works of art. In this situation, interleaving sheets of a thin, archival, pH neutral type of paper called “glassine” can prevent damage. Glassine also prevents certain drawing materials from rubbing off of paper. Pastels and charcoal are especially prone to losing pigment.

Another concern when storing artwork is light. Exposure to sunlight can fade works of art or bleach the paper. Some types of prints are especially sensitive to this. For example, Japanese woodblock prints from the 19th century and earlier were often made with organic pigment that loses its vibrancy or fades to gray. The purple pigment used in these prints is a “fugitive” color and it is now very rare to find vibrant purples in Japanese woodblock prints. This is why we always recommend framing art in UV-filtered Plexiglas to protect work from light damage. (Check out our earlier blog post dedicated to using Plexiglas!)

Colors fading in Japanese woodblock prints via  Viewing Japanese Prints

Colors fading in Japanese woodblock prints via Viewing Japanese Prints

Environment, Pests, and Pesky Situations

Environment is also an important factor in creating the proper storage conditions for works of art on paper. Artwork should be stored in an area away from major activity, far from any food or beverages, and in a secure location.

It is important to store art in a place with consistent, controlled temperature and humidity. According to a guide to storing works on paper published by the University of Illinois, “A frequent recommendation is a stable temperature no higher than 70° F and a stable relative humidity between a minimum of 30% and a maximum of 50%.” 

Paper is sensitive to moisture and can buckle when exposed to changes in humidity. Additionally, wet environments can produce mildew or mold, which can damage art. Works of art on paper and books are susceptible to foxing, or the spread of reddish-brown spots on paper caused by fungal growth.

Bookworms aren’t just people who love to read–they are any type of insect that eats paper. Ironically, these insects are not worms, but moths, beetles, and roaches. Keeping art away from any and all vermin is very important when storing work.

Solutions

Many of these concerns can be addressed by storing pieces in an archival box, like a Solander box. Solander boxes–also called “clamshell cases”–were developed by a botanist named Daniel Solander while he was cataloging the collection of the British Museum from 1763 to 1782. These boxes now come in standard sizes and can also be custom made. They protect from light, dust, vermin, and accidents like flooding. It’s a simple solution that can protect your artwork for many years to come.

Whatever your art storage needs, we are available to consult on creating the best environment for your artwork–on and off the wall.

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Art World Logistics and Jackson Pollock's "Mural"

mural.jpg

This week, the New Yorker published a piece on Jackson Pollock’s painting Mural. Since the creation of Mural in 1943, the painting’s multi-decade journey–from a Peggy Guggenheim’s home and various museums to emergency storage and world tours–illuminates many of the services that we provide as art consultants.

Commissions and Installations

As New Yorker writer Louis Menand relays, Mural was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim, niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim of foundation and museum fame, for her Manhattan townhouse. The piece was installed by the artist and Guggenheim’s friend Marcel Duchamp–which lead to a tall tale about Duchamp slashing eight inches off the painting to make it fit in the space. The story isn’t true, but it’s a great reminder why art consultants exist: not only do we occasionally work with artists to facilitate commissions for corporate clients, but we also work with expert art handlers on installations. For each installation, we take precise measurements, use hardware that works best for the location, and protect the art and the clients’ space.

Donations

In the 1950s, Peggy Guggenheim moved to Venice and wanted to donate the painting but was faced with a conundrum. She offered the painting to Yale, but the institution passed on the donation. The painting ended up in Iowa City, eventually finding its way into the University of Iowa art museum. As art consultants, we can help facilitate the donation of art from corporate collections when the pieces are no longer a good fit for the company. Our services include finding the right home for a piece and managing the logistics of transferring ownership.

Protection and Storage

Pollock’s Mural found a great home at the University of Iowa, but decades later disaster struck. In 2008, the Iowa River flooded the campus, causing $750 million dollars in damage. The school narrowly avoided losing their art collection to the flood. According to the New York Times, “a herculean effort in the preceding days had gotten thousands of pieces, including the museum’s well-regarded collection of African art and a Jackson Pollock piece, to safety.” A component of  our work is to ensure the safety of artwork. We can work with corporate clients to properly store and protect collections from calamities like water damage, mold, pests, or theft. Storage solutions can be on-site in a corporate space or off-site through a trusted vendor.

Transportation

Ground was just broken on the new University of Iowa art museum this past June, but Mural has not been hidden from the public for the past decade. The Pollock masterpiece has been on a world tour, traveling from museum to museum while its home institution recovers. A major part of our work involves arranging the transportation of artwork. For pieces acquired in Chicago, we work with a local network of art professionals to facilitate transportation. When we acquire pieces for corporate clients from galleries in places like New York or Los Angeles, we must arrange transportation for pieces across the country. We are also experienced in facilitating the safe and timely transit of art at a global scale, navigating customs, taxes, crating, and even transAtlantic transportation.

Exhibitions

In July, Pollock’s Mural arrived at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The piece has been in exhibitions around the world for the past ten years and, as the New Yorker notes, each museum decides how to exhibit the piece in relation to their collection. Curating and managing special exhibtions is another on of services as an art consulting firm. We work with clients to create seasonal exhibitions that showcase local artists for their employees and visitors, allowing the client to highlight their support for contemporary art or their interest in a particular medium, like photography or abstract painting. Each exhibition we curate is unique and tailored to our client and their space.

Mural is an excellent example of the interesting and varied life of a single artwork. Every work of art has a story and every owner of a piece contributes to that story. Our job is to help clients acquire new pieces or manage collections–and to help art and companies tell stories together.

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Fine Art Storage

Art Storage

When to Store Artwork

Corporate entities are constantly changing – whether a company is growing or downsizing, their art collection often needs to be taken off-site while these changes are put in place. With many newly renovated offices, there is a culture shift towards openness and collaboration; this manifests in design features like glass walls, interactive write-on walls, and open floor plans with fewer traditional artwork locations. While these adjustments are implemented, storing artwork gives our clients flexibility to install on their schedule.

During construction and relocations, we assist our clients with short and long-term storage options for collections. We manage the process from concept to completion and coordinate artwork removal with building management and the construction team. From there we transport the artwork to a secure storage facility, designed specifically to protect artwork.

Preserving Artwork

We store artwork in state-of-the-art facilities across the country. Protective measures are taken to preserve the artwork, including climate control options to provide the ideal temperature, humidity, and circulation needed for optium archival conditions.

Artwork remains safely packed in it’s storage area. Custom crates, armatures, and shelves can be built to accommodate the specific needs of a sculpture, painting, or artifact. Archival materials are used to protect against acidity and infestations.

Best Practices for Organization

Storage facilities are expansive, and great care is taken to ensure each artwork is accounted for. We use digital databases to maintain an inventory system that tracks details for each item in storage. This can include barcodes indicating the precise location in the storage area, contact information for the project manager, images, and condition reports.

Condition reports

These reports are a key part of art consulting and managing an art collection. When artwork first arrives at the storage location, a condition report is written as part of the initial inventory process. The reports make note of scratches, color inconsistencies, paint cracking, warped canvases, and other noticeable imperfections in an artwork or frame. Images are taken of the noted nuances when the condition report is prepared and are included in the inventory.

When artwork is ready to leave storage, a second condition report is generated. This report should review the original notes, and indicate the current status of the artwork. These updated reports are especially important if an artwork is being removed for conservation or reframing. Additional photos may be taken and added to the artwork’s inventory record.

Diligently employing these best practices when storing artwork leads to reliable records and an efficient system that keeps a collection safe. Using a professional fine art storage facility protects our clients’ investment in their art collection and makes it easy to manage their assets during office construction, renovation, or relocation.  

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Custom Artwork Inventory

Inventory Example

Artwork inventory systems are a key tool for collection management. A well-constructed inventory is a resource for a wide variety of projects, including coordinating artwork relocations, calculating values for insurance, and generating documentation. We create custom-built databases for our client’s inventories to ensure we track and record every detail about their fine art assets.

Managing Artwork as an Asset

While part of an art collections’ value comes from its aesthetic impact, it’s also important to be mindful of an artwork’s financial value, especially in large collections. As a corporate art advisory, we encourage our clients to treat their artwork as an asset, and assigning each work a unique number is the starting point for building an inventory. Depending on the client’s preference, we can add barcodes or RFID chips to each object that matches their asset number. When scanned, the client can access each item’s unique catalog entry in their database.

Inventory systems also help with curatorial projects. It’s easy to generate a report based on artwork dimensions and style details, helping us quickly assess what artwork would be the best fit for a new or renovated space. Each entry includes documentation images, and can be classified by media, art historical movement, and frame style to efficiently determine which group of artwork will create a meaningful addition to a space.

Insurance Considerations

An important component of managing fine art assets includes maintaining records of each work’s provenance. While provenance is necessary to determine an artwork’s authenticity, the primary reason we are diligent about including it is to understand the financial history of the art. Knowing the source, price, and time period in which each artwork was purchased helps appraisers determine the work’s current value. Appraisal data is also included in the database, along with reports that calculate the total current value of the collection, and how the value has changed. We recommend updating appraisals every couple of years in order to maintain the correct amount insurance coverage; this often saves clients money, as most entities tend to overestimate and overpay for the insurance they require.

KEEPING TRACK OF ARTWORK LOCATIONS

Another advantage to maintaining an accurate database is its reliability for tracking artwork movements. In Chicago, there are dozens of new high-rises being constructed for commercial leases, and we use database reports to verify every artwork is accounted for during a relocation. Temporary movements can be included as well, such as transportation to be reframed or conserved. We note the dates of each movement, the staff members who assisted, and confirm their installation location when they return. Artwork in storage is accounted for as well, with notations about the climate-control specifications and how the artwork is packed or crated.

Ultimately, having a custom inventory system saves our clients money. We’re able to generate reports, analyze data, and coordinate logistics quickly and efficiently when we can utilize a company’s database to access artwork information.

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