How To Safely Store Art

Caring for prized pieces is always a must—even (and especially) when said items are off-premises. When storing art is necessary, engaging a trusted expert is key, so we asked Lauren Hilyard of the Washington, D.C.-based Hilyard Art Advisory for advice on how to ensure that artwork is safe while outside of the home; here are her recommendations:

• Get recommendations for at least two storage facilities that specialize in or have experience with storing art from art collecting friends, museum curators, art advisors, and auction houses. Carefully compare your options before making your selection, and do your homework: Ask for a list of clients, check out the space in person (it should be climate controlled, clean, and secure), and inquire about their security.

• Write a condition report and take photos (better yet, have your art advisor or an art expert do this for you) before the items are put in storage so that you have a record of their condition.

• Make sure your artwork is insured, and that your appraisal is current (artwork should be appraised for insurance purposes every 3 to 5 years). Do not rely on the storage facility’s insurance policy, and check that the facility is not charging you for insurance that you don’t need.

• A full-service art storage company will have a packing and shipping department that can build custom crates for your pieces. Before it goes into storage, label the outside of each crate or package so you can easily identify its contents. Affixing a small photograph on the outside of the box or crate can also be helpful.

• Create an inventory. Recording the location of each item in your collection can save time and prevent headaches. There are several art collection databases that are easy to use, but Excel spreadsheets can also do the trick.

• Don’t succumb to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Check on your collection every 3 to 6 months.

Expert tip from Lauren Hilyard of Hilyard Art Advisory in Washington, D.C. Featured image and artwork by Cate West Zahl in Charlottesville, VA.