Smithsonian Associates

Art Collectors Program

Help keyboard_arrow_right Protecting Your Artwork

Did you know that a fine art print can be damaged hanging in your own home, regardless of whether or not it is hit by a disaster? As a collector, you should be aware of the many protective measures that can help safeguard your treasures from those elements that can cause harm to your art.

Light

The first step is to make sure that your artwork is framed using UV protective glass. The inks used to create a beautiful print can fade when exposed to sunlight. Make sure that your print is hung out of direct sunlight or away from bright light. Rotating your collection can also help prevent fading.

While insured art is covered in the event of theft, fire, or water damage, or damage caused during transit, a policy will not pay for gradual deterioration such as fading caused by natural or artificial light.

Matting

You don’t want the mat around your print to discolor your fine art print. Make sure that your print is matted using acid-free matting.

Temperature

Museums spend millions of dollars a year making sure that their rooms are perfectly climate controlled. In your home, try keeping the temperature, either via air-conditioning or heating, relatively constant. The same is true for humidity: too much moisture could cause a mold problem, while very dry air will cause paper to become fragile and wood to crack.

Hanging

Be sure to securely mount your artwork. Use hooks that are approved for slightly more than the weight of the object you wish to hang. Remember that not all walls are equal, and some require special mollies or anchors. For three-dimensional objects, you should consider whether they are prone to tip over. For small glass art such as Chihuly glass sculpture, museum wax is a wonderful tool. It will adhere smaller three-dimensional objects to a surface without causing any damage to the artwork.

Conservation

In the event your artwork is damaged, seek the help of a professional conservator as soon as possible. The faster you do, the better the chances that the art can be repaired. Your insurance broker or a curator should be able to provide referrals for experienced conservators, appraisers, art storage facilities, and other art professionals in your area. Another excellent reference is the Appraisers Association of America, www.appraisersassoc.org.

Keeping records

You will also want to create a detailed record of your art collection that includes information about the artist, title, date, medium, size, current condition, and purchase information such as the gallery where it was purchased and the date as well as any receipts and catalogs where the artwork appeared. It is also a good idea to keep photographs of the artwork. In the case of three-dimensional objects, take photographs from several angles, so that you have a record of all sides of the object. Ideally, you should keep your records in a safe, off-site location, like a safety deposit box.

Insurance

Protecting your fine art collection includes making sure it is adequately covered by insurance. If your homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover artwork you can turn to specialist brokers with experience and knowledge in both insurance and artwork. Whether covered through your homeowner’s policy or an additional policy, it is important that you review your policy on a yearly basis.

* Based on an article by Carrie Coolidge, “The Fine Art of Protecting Fine Art” on Forbes.com, May 19, 2005