Works of art often need to be stored, for example when you move to a new home, inherit the works from someone else or simply redecorate.
Often paintings and other artworks have high sentimental or monetary value, or both. This may mean you don’t want to resort to selling them even if you’re short on space.
If you need to store artwork, it’s vital to follow certain steps to ensure they don’t get damaged.
Find a clean, dry storage space
Damp is the number one enemy of stored art so make sure the space has no damp issues or mould.
The space should also be protected from extreme temperature changes. Dramatic changes in temperature can cause canvases to sag, stretch or tighten.
Avoid strong light
The space should be as dark as possible. Strong light or direct sunlight can be very damaging to paintings, causing the paint to fade and crack or flake.
A storage unit or room with no windows is ideal.
Clean and frame artwork before storing
Dust can accumulate when art is on display, so give each piece a careful dusting. Also wipe frames with a clean, dry cloth to remove residual dirt.
Protect your artwork while in storage
Never wrap art in airtight plastic or bubble wrap. This can cause condensation and lead to mould and moisture damage.
Bubble wrap can be used to protect corners but should never be in direct contact with the painting’s surface. Rather use clean, soft clothes or blankets to wrap paintings in storage.
How to store paintings
Framing prior to storage
Framing a painting before you store it is one of the best ways to protect it.
The glass and protective backing help keep moisture and contaminants out, and the frame itself protects corners and edges from being damaged.
Paintings are sometimes left unframed because their painted edges are part of the artwork. For this type of painting, you can buy what’s known as a handling-travel-storage (HTS) frame. This will protect the painting’s surface and edges.
Raising paintings off the ground for storage
Never store paintings flat on the floor. Instead, use a padded pallet or board to support them at a height of at least 7 to 10 centimetres off the ground. This will help protect them from moisture damage, as well as dust and dirt.
Guidelines for stacking paintings
Also, avoid leaning stacks of paintings against a wall. This makes them vulnerable to damage through contact with one another. They may also sag or slip if accidentally caught by the foot of a passer-by.
It’s best to avoid stacking altogether if you can. Where it’s necessary to stack paintings, however, aim not to stack more than four or five together. Minimise the angle so the paintings can’t slip.
Also, separate each of the stacked canvasses or paintings using acid-free boards or paper. The board or paper should be slightly larger than the artworks themselves.
It’s a good idea to face the final painting on the stack inwards, to protect it from damage.
If you have a lot of paintings to store or the paintings are of high value, it may be worth investing in (or making) a custom shelving unit that lets you store each painting horizontally, on a separate shelf. A map cabinet with pull-out shelves may be ideal.
Just make sure the shelves are smooth – ideally coat with an acrylic latex paint – and use appropriate cushioning material. Also, drape the open side of the unit with a protective sheet to protect against dust and pests.
How to store sculptures
Sculptures made from marble, stone or ceramic can be wrapped in bubble wrap for protection.
These types of sculptures are most likely to be damaged because they’re dropped, toppled, hit against other objects or accidentally kicked. Place in boxes with plenty of padding and be extra-careful during transportation!
Wooden sculptures are best wrapped in paper or cloth to avoid the possibility of condensation, which can lead to mould or watermarks.
After wrapping in an absorbent material, however, it’s a good idea to seal a wooden sculpture into an air-tight container. This is because wood is particularly prone to damage from excess light, temperature fluctuations and pests.
What else to avoid
A few other considerations that affect how to store paintings and artwork:
- avoid overly dry or humid storage spaces; the ideal humidity is 40 to 50%
- avoid storage next to exterior walls, which are more exposed to damp
- generally, avoid attics and basements; they tend to be either too dry or too damp and are often dusty
- similarly, avoid garages, which are too exposed to the elements, may be infested by pests and unlikely to be highly secure
- if your art is valuable, consider insuring it before storing it.
Storing painting and artwork with XtraSpace
At XtraSpace, we offer storage units that are secure, clean and dry, in a wide range of sizes. All our facilities feature 24/7 CCTV monitoring and security, and our units aren’t exposed to direct sunlight.