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ArtGuest Post

Overcoming the Unique Challenges of Moving Artwork

Guest post by Aimee Lyons

We’ve all seen the stereotype: an unkempt artist working in a wild studio with canvases and paint strewn on the floor. Sure, there are some artists who work this way. For the rest of us, the work space is like anyone else’s – it contains a work desk, supplies, and places to keep them. And just like anyone, artists have to relocate from time to time, and they face particular challenges when moving. Artists’ work and supplies can be delicate, sensitive to environmental changes, or heavy (bronze casts, anyone?), so moving can be a headache and a financial minefield for artists. Here are a few tips for moving, for emerging and established artists alike.

First, organize and plan. Gather your materials and finished work in one space. Take stock of what you have and what you need, and note what items need extra care. This is especially important if your art needs to be stored for any period of time. Art should be stored at 40-50% humidity and at 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. It should never be piled up horizontally, but instead stacked vertically or even hung, if possible. Crescent board can be used between pieces to keep them from touching each other. Proceed with caution when and if you wrap up your masterpieces – humidity can build quickly and cause mold to grow on your precious work.

If canvas is unfinished, it’s important to protect it from dust, oil, and humidity. Roll large items into a tube to protect them from being crushed, and store smaller items between sheets of acid-free paper and file them. Try not to touch the paintings, as this can leave unwanted marks or oil. Instead, wear 100% cotton gloves to protect your art from accidentally rubbing off layers or scratching paint.

For sculptures, building a crate to size is the best way to protect your artwork. Wrap the sculpture in foam and place the wrapped sculpture inside the custom crate. Wood is an excellent material to use.

Moving materials can become very expensive, but there are some ways to save.  First, check for gently used supplies. If you can find a person who relocated, you’ve hit the jackpot with boxes to spare. Only use materials in good condition that have not been stored in a moist or moldy area. Second, build your own supplies instead of purchasing them. You can find easy-to-follow instructions for building crates for a small fraction of the cost of buying one pre-made. Third, creatively reuse produce and liquor boxes, which you can get for free from local stores. Choose boxes with dividers to easily prop up liquids and breakables. To make life easier on yourself, number and label each box’s contents. That way, you can easily identify materials and sort boxes before they sit in the sun or garage and contents are damaged. It is equally important to label fragile boxes on all sides so your mover will be sure to see the warning.

If you’ve managed to save on materials, it may be worth the investment to hire a specialist mover for especially heavy items (though it never hurts to compare rates). Your pieces will be less likely to become damaged, and you will be less likely to hurt yourself. Chronic back pain or injury is just not worth it!

Last, but not least, consider insurance for your move. You may be able to add this through your homeowners or renters insurance. Be sure to talk with your insurance agent about especially high value items, as these may need to be noted on your policy. There is no replacing your artwork if it is damaged, but insurance will give you peace of mind that you are protected in the unlikely event something does go wrong.

Moving is a hassle, but by planning well, it is possible to make your move go smoothly. Organize, be resourceful, and mind your assets to protect yourself from the most common pitfalls of moving and storing.

Aimee Lyons

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