Whether you have a treasured painting that has been in the family for generations or a modern piece you snagged at your favorite gallery, moving and storing any work of art is a delicate task.

Fingerprints, dirt and rough handling can quickly ruin a beautiful canvas. And if the painting is covered in glass, it is extra fragile.

“The slightest bump or tension can cause the glass to crack – if not to shatter,” says Timmy Griffin, digital content consultant for Best Move.

Fortunately, with the right care, paintings can survive short moves, long moves, and storage stays. Follow these steps to keep prized artwork looking its best throughout the moving process:

1. Wrap It Well.

“If the painting is covered in glass, tape a large ‘X’ across the glass,” said Justin Brasington, head of marketing at Moved. This way, if the glass does crack or break during transit, the piece will still hold together and not shatter. Otherwise, shards of broken glass could pierce the precious canvas surface of your painting.

Next, cover the framed painting in plastic wrap to protect the frame from scratches and scuffs. Use 100 percent cotton gloves during this step to avoid getting fingerprints or oil from your hands on the art.

When you have finished wrapping the painting in plastic, cut a few small slits in the back of the plastic so the art can breathe.

Then cover the piece with tightly fitting cardboard. “Most moving and shipping companies will sell appropriately-sized boxes,” said Brasington. “Or you can create your own with some cardboard and strategically applied tape.”

Use bubble wrap to cover this layer of cardboard. For extra protection, place the package into another cardboard box.

Of course, you may also remove canvases from their frames and roll them loosely and store them in a sturdy cardboard tube. Before sealing in the tube, wrap the rolled painting in acid-free tissue paper for added protection.

Moving in

2. Let Movers Know.

Label the box and mark it as fragile. If a moving company is overseeing your transition, point out all paintings to the workers.

If you’re carrying out a DIY move, make sure friends and helpers are aware of the painting.

3. Don’t Stack It.

On the moving truck, look for a spot where paintings can be placed upright. Do not load any heavy items on top of the paintings and watch out for any items that might fall over. Make sure your boxes are tucked securely in way where they will not topple over either.

For local moves, consider transporting the painting in your own vehicle to get to the new place. This way you can keep a closer eye on it and be sure that shifting contents in your moving truck do not pose a danger.

Business woman carrying canvas

4. Know When to Go With the Pros.

For long-distance moves, consider hiring a professional art mover.

Additionally, “if the art is valuable, use a shipper that specializes in art,” recommends Beverly Solomon, owner of Beverly Solomon Design, an art and design business.

FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service will also transport important pieces.

5. Store Correctly.

If you need to store a painting before hanging it, start by wrapping it well. Similar to preparing it for a move, begin with plastic wrap. Cover this with cardboard, and then add a layer of bubble wrap. Place the item in an additional cardboard box to keep it safe.

For paintings that are not framed, try rolling up the artwork and placing it in a tube.

“Pastel or charcoal works should always be stored with the picture side upwards,” explains Mark Lambert, international art advisor for Trinity House Paintings. This prevents the picture from wearing off of the paper.

To keep art in good condition, avoid prolonged direct sunlight and heated places. Also steer clear of attics and basements, as these areas can have extreme temperatures and cause issues such as mold growth, mildew, warping or fading.

A painting should not be stored directly on a concrete floor or wall, as these surfaces can be damp as well.

“Humidity and temperature are vital – any drastic changes in these can cause the canvas to shrug and stretch,” adds Griffin.

If you plan to store paintings at an off-site facility, opt for a storage unit with climate control that will maintain a steady temperature and humidity levels. Also keep the painting away from other items that could fall on it or cause damage. If you have a very valuable art collection, consider storing your pieces at a dedicated art storage facility.

 

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Rachel Hartman