Fine Art Removals – Bespoke Packaging

Imy Clarke - On behalf of Alchemy Recruitment, June 11, 2014

Fine art removals is big business, whether working for galleries, museums or even private collectors. Yet, when dealing with something so valuable (in some cases even priceless) how do you prevent damage in transit? Very simply, it’s all in the packaging.

There are an abundance of specialist fine art removals companies who all offer a variety of packing options, but what really is the best way to transport fine art? With each work of art being different in some way, packing is nearly always bespoke. Whether unframed or framed artwork or irregularly shaped sculptures or antiques, there are some consistencies.

Unframed artwork is the easiest category to pack. It tends to be transported either flat, or rolled up into a tube. Rolling, however, can be risky since edges and corners can be damaged. For the same reason, never lift unmounted artwork by its corners or edges – instead slide a cardboard sheet underneath and handle this. Use tissue paper or photography gloves as well to reduce any damage that natural skin oils could cause. For the actual packing, protect the artwork first with acid free tissue paper on the front and back. Then use two or three layers of cardboard on each side to prevent bending. Tape around the edges to ensure that they all stay together. For further security, packing within a mirror pack can also be very beneficial.

Framed artwork, however, provides more problems. Before packing, the artwork must be secure within its frame and there should be no loose pieces capable of damaging it. If the paint is loose or flaking and the trip is only short, it can be possible to let the painting ride uncovered and facing up with only a polyethylene drop cloth if necessary. Translucent glassine envelopes can then be used as they will ward of any condensation, but they should not touch the surface of painting in case they stick to the varnish layer. By following this with a protective layer of Mylar or polyethylene and then bubble wrap, the best protection can be found. Ensure, however, that the bubbles face outwards for better protection, and to reduce the risk of the bubbles being imprinted onto the artwork. Corners can also be an issue, but by wrapping the corners in cardboard and again with bubble wrap, unwanted dents can be avoided, particularly as in boxes it will be corners which suffer the most impact.

What happens when the artwork isn’t such a straightforward shape? What if you’re transporting a priceless sculpture or an antique vase? The key here is cushioning. For these sorts of items, custom crates or cardboard boxes lined with inert museum grade memory foam are essential. If possible, it’s best to create form-fitting silhouettes of the object within the foam and then line this with cotton to prevent any abrasion. There are a variety of materials which can be used to cushion artwork: crumpled paper, bubble wrap and polystyrene are the most popular. The trick is to make sure that all gaps around the object are filled in some way. If glass is involved, using glass safety film is paramount – should the glass shatter, the film will hold it together to prevent it causing further damage.

Good packaging is one thing, but if considerations such as the duration of the transportation and temperature and humidity are not taken into account, the artwork can be damaged beyond repair. If there will be vibrations from the transport vehicle then there must be suitable cushioning. If the temperature or humidity will change, or even be especially high or low, then climate controlled transport needs to be used. Packing fine art requires specialist knowledge and equipment and is a science in itself.

Posted in categories: Fine Art, Specialist Removals
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