How to Select a Fine Art Services Facility
How to Select a Fine Art Services Facility
Finding an appropriate fine art services facility for high-value art is quite different than finding a storage facility that stores seasonal items or everyday household objects. Art requires a level of care beyond what a typical self-storage facility provides. Finding a facility which specializes in art storage and whose staff has been trained to handle art can be daunting given that these facilities do not typically advertise publicly to maintain privacy and discretion. Deciding where your collection will “reside” is a bit like searching for a home; there are important features that are “non-negotiables” and others that may be relevant to your collection but not to others. Below is a list of the most important items to consider when selecting a fine art services facility.
Is the facility climate-controlled?
Fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity can threaten the lifespan of art and antiques; especially wood, paper, and other materials made from natural substances. There is a difference between temperature controlled (temperature is monitored) and climate controlled (temperature and humidity are monitored) environments. Consistency is key to creating a stable climate and safe environment for your collection. Ask the fine art services facility how climate is maintained and monitored.
What kind of security measures are in place?
A reliable fine art services facility should be equipped with sophisticated alarm and fire sprinkler systems. Ask whether they have an alarm system reporting to a central station or if they rely on security guards. Find out if and how access is granted (hint: it should be extremely limited), whether an art handler will be present, and whether you must supply a lock. If you’re storing works in co-mingled art storage, the facility should never allow you into the space, especially if you will be unaccompanied. However, if you want access to your collection, be sure to find out in advance what the rules are, such as whether you will have to pay to visit the facility and whether you have access to a viewing room or private space to see your collection.
How is the inventory managed?
Fine art storage facilities can contain thousands of works. Make sure that your prospective provider has a robust inventory management system and then ask them to explain or show you how it works. It won’t matter how physically safe your collection is if it gets lost or misplaced within the facility itself.
Is the staff trained to handle art?
An excellent art storage facility can partially guarantee your collection’s physical safety, but even the best climate conditions, most accurate inventory system, and strongest security measures won’t protect your art from human error or an untrained staff. Most fine art pieces are very delicate and require special handling, so you need to find a facility operated by professional art handlers who know how to treat any kind of art carefully. Ask your prospective provider about the background of its staff, if the staff has been trained to handle art in a variety of media and if they have a formal training/safety program in place. You should also ask if employees have been given background checks and are drug-tested.
Is the facility prepared for emergencies?
Regardless of where they are located, fine art storage facilities should be prepared in the event of flood, earthquake, hurricane, fire, or any other natural disasters. If the facility is in an area prone to natural disasters or extreme weather, ask about its construction, for example, is it CAT 5 hurricane-rated? Do they have a Business Contingency Plan or an evacuation plan and what you would personally be expected to do, if anything, to ensure the safety of your collection? If you are placing your collection in extended or seasonal storage and will be out of town, make sure you ask how the facility staff will communicate with you during an extreme weather event. All art storage facilities should have a backup generator to ensure the art is protected and climate control is maintained during a power outage.
Does the company provide art services other than storage?
It is always better to choose a company that offers not only art storage but also a variety of other art services such as transportation, packing, installation and crating. Your collection might need numerous services.
Has the facility been vetted and approved by insurance companies?
Your insurance broker is a valuable resource for finding qualified art services professionals, including a reputable art storage provider. He or she will either have direct experience with art storage facilities and will be able to steer you in the direction of approved providers. If you’re researching a company that isn’t on your broker’s list, you can ask the company for a facility report to send to your broker for review.
Investing in fine art brings a great source of accomplishment, pride, and joy. Protecting this investment from risk and damage also requires a tremendous commitment, including surrounding yourself with a team of trusted art services professionals. Taking the time to select a trustworthy art storage facility takes time, due diligence and careful consideration but will be one of the most important steps you can take to mitigate risk to your investment.
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"Dear Susan, I would like to thank you and your team for the prompt and impeccable service. It was an absolute pleasure working with you."
"I was referred to Bellissima by a reputable art dealer as I needed a number of pieces carefully shipped from Miami to NYC in a hurry, and they did an exceptional job. Their staff was courteous and packed/crated my pieces with complete...