How to store art

Knowing how to store art can save you from some major headaches.

When you store art the right way, you’ll avoid some bad situations. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of taking your art out of storage only to find permanent damage. From moldy canvas to yellowed paper damaged by the sun.

To properly protect and store your artwork, you have to choose a storage environment and packing materials that won’t cause premature aging or damage. Handle all work with care.

Selecting the right location to store art

Pick a room that’s as dark as possible. Sunlight is a natural enemy of artwork. It can yellow paper and fade colors extremely fast. So you want to store your art in a sunlight free place away from windows. Choose a windowless room, such as a finished basement or office, to store your artwork.

Keep the room at a temperature of about 70 °F (21 °C). For most types of art, a consistent, cool temperature is ideal. Rooms that change in temperature from high to low, can crack paint, warp canvas stretcher bars and wood panels, or yellow paper. If you are not storing art in your home, your next-best option is a a temperature-controlled unit.

Maintain a humidity of 50% in the storage room. Paint and wood are extremely sensitive to humidity. Keeping a constant, level of 50% humidity in your storage area will keep your artwork from changing shape or getting moldy.

The best way to moderate the humidity in a room is by using a humidifier or dehumidifier.

Preparing Your Art for Storage

Make sure all the art is dry. If you’re storing any paintings, sculptures, or ceramics, make sure they’re completely dry before handling. Some artwork, such as oil paintings, can take a day or a few weeks to dry.

Clean the art. You can expand the lifespan of your art by making sure it’s clean before long storage times. Use a microfiber cloth, rag, or paper towel to clean the artwork. Gently wipe it across frames, glass, ceramics, and acrylic paintings. for works on paper, you can use a soft makeup brush to gently sweep dirt and dust away.

For metal sculptures or frames with an oil-based polish and buff with a dry rag.

Protect framed paintings with acid-free tissue. Acid is in many types of paper and packing materials, and will age art much faster. Often, changing its color. Using acid-free tissue, wrap around the painting to protect it and give it breathing room. Then roll it into a padding, like bubble wrap, to protect the frame.

Another option for paintings is wrapping them plastic wrap instead of tissue paper. However, if you do this you risk sealing humidity inside. Which can result in mold. So be careful and extra aware of the mun, steer clear of it.

Group smaller prints or works on paper together in a folder. Put acid-free paper or tissue between the works on paper. Slip your prints into folders, with roughly 10-15 in each.

Seal unframed paper in glassine. Glassine is a material used by archivists to preserve unframed artwork and documents. You can purchase glassine online or at any art supply store. Cut a sheet of glassine about two times the size of each piece. Wrap it as you might a present, then tape it face down onto a piece of foamcore.

Wrap sculptures and other 3D objects in bubble wrap. When preparing to store sculptures, wrap them in bubble wrap. Use multiple layers if necessary. Tape the bubble wrap in place.

Place all wrapped artwork into boxes. You should try to give each item its own sturdy cardboard box, though you can place folders horizontally in a box together. Once you’ve put your art in boxes, stuff the rest of each box with newspaper to prevent the art from shifting around.

Housing Your Art

If you’re artworks are large, handle one piece at a time. You don’t want to ruin all of your hard work and preparation by trying to store it too quickly. Move your artwork piece by piece when putting it into storage.

Label and keep a record of your stored art. Just use tape and permanent marker, label all the boxes of artwork. On each box include all the titles and other info you want to remember about each artwork. If you’re dealing with a lot of different art, you can create a spreadsheet or written record of what art you’ve stored and where it’s located.

Keep art off of the ground. You never want your artwork touching the storage room floor. In case of a flood situation or large spill, your art will be the first victim. If you don’t have large shelving, elevate the work risers or large pieces of wood so there is space between the art and the ground.

Stand paintings on their sides in boxes or on storage racks. You want to avoid putting any pressure on paintings, so don’t stack them flat. Stand them on their sides and place them next to one another as you would if you were putting books on a bookshelf.

Check your art for damage every few months or so. Even if you’ve set up perfect conditions for your artwork, problems and subtle changes environment changes can still happen. Checking in on it is the best method to catch any potential issues early on. Sometimes pipes burst, leaks happen, or your artwork gets unwelcome visitors such as pests and mold.

Look for these signs of pests in your storage area: entry or exit holes, Fallen particles from feeding, droppings, or cocoon cases.

Mold is the trickiest and most common unwanted visitor when you store art. Often times it will appear as fine webbing, or clusters of spotty, fuzzy material. If the area you’re storing your artwork smells musty, this may be an indication of mold.

How do I store my art carefully with little to no space?

Consider areas that don’t get used too much and won’t be in the way, such as the top of a wardrobe, hanging an art folder on a spare wall, placing under a bed or inside a chest, or at the back of a wardrobe behind your shoes and clothes.

Choose a wardrobe, closet or lockup in a garage space instead if you don’t have a windowless room. Another option is to choose a room that doesn’t get much light. Keeping your artwork well wrapped or inside boxes will to prevent light from getting to it.

Another great option is to purchase an artwork file/portfolio cases. For larger pieces of artwork, mailing tubes can be a great way to keep these stored without folding them.

Final thought on how to store art

Even though it’s probably your goal to sell art online, it’s perfectly normal to have an inventory of work you need to store.  Understanding the basics of art storage is important to maintain your art collection or want to save your personal artwork from unnecessary damage. Know matter what, there will be times in your life where you will have to put your artwork in storage.

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