By Caroline Page-Katz, Chief Operating Officer at UOVO
Art storage facilities are naturally mysterious, discreet places due to the high value of their contents, so choosing one can be a murky and confusing process. Here is a checklist to go over when you’re searching for the perfect home for your artwork, whether it’s one painting or an institutional collection:
1. Does this company specialize in art storage?
Storing art isn’t like storing 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 is the most important box to tick in your search.
2. Has the facility been vetted and approved by insurance companies?
Your insurance broker is a valuable resource for finding a reputable art storage provider. He or she will either have direct experience with providers and facilities, especially if their firm is familiar with policies for fine art, or 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 as well as read reviews on The Clarion List.
3. Is the facility climate-controlled?
Consistency is key when it comes to a facility’s temperature and humidity regulation. Swings in temperature or humidity can cause wood, paper, and other materials made from natural substances to swell, crack, or smear. An artwork’s medium dictates the exact climate conditions it requires (e.g. photography requires very cold storage), but all works depend on stability. Art storage facilities are often either temperature-controlled (humidity isn’t monitored) or climate-controlled (both temperature and humidity are regulated). Ask the facility about the climate conditions of where your art will be stored.
4. Is the facility itself purpose-designed for storing art and other valuables?
Even if the company specializes in art storage, it’s crucial to inquire about whether or not the facility has been purpose-designed for storing art. Purpose-designed art storage facilities have taken key factors such as security and access control, climate conditions (see #3), elevator capacity, racking, and loading docks into consideration. A specialized art storage company is limited in its safety guarantees if the building isn’t properly fitted out.
Art storage facilities should also be single-use, without any other companies or manufacturers using the building. Additional business presence heightens the security risk and also raises questions about the facility’s environmental conditions.
5. Does the company own the facility?
It is also worth asking a prospective provider if they own their building. Companies on a short-term lease cannot guarantee that you will not be asked to vacate your space sooner than you planned. Find out who manages the building and how extensive their facility management experience is.
6. Is the inventory managed digitally?
Art storage facilities are often massive buildings with tens or even hundreds of thousands of square feet of storage and thousands of works. Make sure that your prospective provider has a digital inventory management and barcode 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.
7. What kind of security measures are in place?
Your collection is a valuable asset and should be kept accordingly secure. While your insurance provider will have at least some of these answers, it doesn’t hurt to ask the provider about their security measures. Ask whether they have an alarm system reporting to a central station or if they only rely on security guards. Find out how the private rooms are secured and whether or not you have to bring your own lock.
8. Is the staff trained to handle art?
Your collection’s physical safety can be partially guaranteed by an excellent art storage facility, but even the best climate conditions, most accurate digital inventory system, and strongest security measures won’t protect your art from human error. Ask your prospective provider if the staff has been trained to handle art in a variety of media and if they have a formal training program in place. It is also worth asking if employees have been given background checks and are drug-tested.
9. Are the loading docks enclosed or covered and what kind of vehicles can they accommodate?
An art storage facility’s high-quality conditions must extend to their entrances as well. If possible, find a facility with enclosed loading docks, as they will help to maintain climate conditions and prevent “shocking” the art when it is brought from the truck into the facility. Covered loading docks are also a good option as they protect objects from inclement weather. If your collection has some very large works or you’re expecting large shipments, look for a facility that can accommodate a 53-foot tractor trailer.
Finally, it might be worth asking what the average wait time is at the facility. If a facility only has one or two loading docks, your artwork might be sitting on a truck for longer than anticipated and be more vulnerable.
10. Can you bring in or take out inventory easily?
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. That is a major red flag for their security measures if you are.
However, if you want frequent access to your collection for any reason, be sure to find out in advance what the rules are, such as whether or not you will have to pay to visit the facility and whether you will have to rent a viewing room or private unit to see your collection.
11. Is the facility prepared for emergencies?
Regardless of where they are located, your art storage facility should be prepared in the event of flood, earthquake, fire, or any other natural disasters. Find out if a prospective provider is located in an area prone to natural disasters or extreme weather. If they are, ask if they have an evacuation plan and what you would personally be expected to do to ensure the safety of your collection. Even if a provider is not in a danger zone, art should never be stored in the basement or directly on the ground. All art storage facilities should have a back-up generator to ensure the art is protected during a power outage.
12. Does the company provide art services other than storage?
Your collection might need numerous services, such as transportation, packing, or installation. While looking for an art storage provider, ask if they also provide fine art services or have partners that they regularly work with.
An art collection can be a source of great joy, but it comes with challenges. Investing in trustworthy art storage facility is a great way to minimize the latter.
Click here to download the checklist.
From climate-controlled storage to private viewing rooms, to transportation, packing, crating, and installation services, UOVO provides an array of storage options and innovative service and management solutions tailored to meet the specialized needs of any collection. The company has recently announced the acquisition of a third facility, expanding their range of high-quality services and cost-effective storage options. For more information about UOVO, visit their listing on The Clarion List or their website.