Disaster Preparedness for Art Collectors

Hurricane Harvey exited the Texas Gulf Coast at the end of August, after producing record rainfall, widespread flooding, and other damage that affected more than 50 Texas counties. The storm displaced tens of thousands of residents in the Houston area alone. Whether you’re one of the many now recovering from property damage or someone looking for ways to be better prepared for the next hurricane or extreme rain event, Arnoult Fine Art Consulting offers these tips for protecting works of art before, during, and after such disasters. 

Before a Major Weather Event 

Establish Value:  Have an up-to-date inventory of the artwork you own that includes photos of the individual works and purchase receipts. In addition, it’s ideal to have a professional appraisal (which should be updated every five-to-ten years, depending on the type of work and the artist).  

Know About Your Insurance Coverage:  Discuss your art collection with your insurance agent. Home insurance typically does not cover art collections. 

Seek Shelter:  If you think you are at risk of flooding—and if there is time—move works to a climate-controlled space, such as a storage facility or the home of a friend or family member. 


If You Have to Evacuate 

Move to Higher Ground:  Move artwork to the highest point possible inside the climate-controlled part of the house. 

For Paintings - It’s okay to lay a painting on a flat surface (like a table), face-down on top of a sheet of plastic—or glassine, if possible—to protect the surface. Consider removing canvases from their stretchers if it will make them easier to store or to remove from the house. Remove the entire canvas from the stretcher bars and roll it up, paint side out. Wrap in paper or plastic. 

For Works on Paper - Framed works on paper are best stored upright. Lean the pieces against each other, right-side up, arranged face to face and back to back. 


After an Extreme Wet-Weather Event 

Dry Out:  Try to get artwork away from water and into a climate-controlled area as soon as possible. Big temperature and humidity fluctuations are hard on artwork, especially if they happen repeatedly. For framed works on paper that have gotten wet, find a framer to take them out of their frames to dry as soon as possible.  

Assess Damage:  If any works of art are damaged, find a reputable fine art conservation and restoration professional to evaluate them. Most damage can be repaired.  


And Throughout... 

Remember the Power of Art:  It’s wonderful to be able to enjoy art every day, but the power of art is perhaps even more profound during difficult times. As Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” It’s a quote I often think of when art offers solace in the midst of tragedy. And it’s this quality that makes our roles as caretakers of fine art all the more vital.


For more advice about any of these recommendations, contact Elise Arnoult Miller of Arnoult Fine Art Consulting , elise@artnoultfineart.com, 832.483.5360.