Packing Artwork and Antiques

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Packing all of your belongings for a move requires a lot of hard work. While there are several items that are particularly delicate and need special preparations, you artwork and antiques are likely to be at the top of this list. Whether you need to transport an original Picasso or a family portrait, here are some ways to pack your artwork and antiques and ensure their monetary or sentimental value.


Before you begin packing, you should create an inventory of your artwork and antiques. This will help you determine which items you can pack yourself and which should be handled by professionals, such as large, heavy, or extremely valuable pieces. If you have any high-value artwork, remember to get it appraised before the move and have them properly insured.
 

You will also need to have the right supplies for packing up your items.

  • For large paintings and mirrors, you should use special picture boxes. Unlike your typical moving boxes, cardboard picture boxes are large, flat, and adjustable, perfect for protecting framed artwork.
  • Corner protectors are very helpful as well. Made of cardboard, paper, bubble wrap, foam, or plastic, corner protectors will cushion your artwork when it is the box. They can also help avert damage to the corners of the frames and prevent the corners from causing damage to other goods.
  • When packing sculptures, you will need some of the standard packing supplies, like unprinted newspaper, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts.

Packing framed artwork

When packing a painting, mirror, or framed photograph you first need to put two strips of masking tape over the glass in an X shape. If the glass should break, the tape will keep it from shattering and scratching the underlying picture or from hurting you. Once the painting is taped up, put on the corner protectors and wrap the frame in bubble wrap and newsprint.

If the item isn't covered in glass, you need to take some extra precautions:

  • Since the plastic in bubble wrap might react with, or stick to, the paint, you should first cover the painting in unprinted newspaper. Be sure to use unprinted newsprint, as the ink from regular newspaper can also react with the paint.
  • After you wrap the item in newspaper, cover it with bubble wrap.
  • For extra protection, tape sheets of cardboard over the bubble wrap.

Once your item is properly protected, you can then pack it in appropriately sized picture boxes. Place some crumpled up pieces of unprinted newspaper at the bottom of the box. Then you can put the frame inside. If there is any extra room inside the box, you can always secure your artwork by putting in more newspaper. After closing the box and taping it shut, remember to label the box as "Fragile."

TIP: If you have a lot of smaller framed paintings or photos, simply follow the above guidelines for each piece. Then, place the items vertically in a small cardboard box.

Packing sculptures and antiques

To pack sculptures or antiques, you will first need to get boxes that are bigger than the items themselves. Make sure the box won't be too close-fitting, as each piece will have to be padded with bubble wrap or newspaper, adding to the item's size.

Once you have the right boxes, you can begin packing up. Wrap each piece with bubble wrap or newspaper, and seal the covering together with tape. Then, fill up about one-third of the box with packing peanuts. Place the item inside the box upright and fully cover the item with more peanuts. Once the piece is secure, tape the box shut. Of course, be sure to write the word "Fragile" on the box.

When moving, it is very important to package your artwork and antiques properly. Whether they are valuable pieces or inexpensive ones you picked up at a discount store, artwork is an integral part of any home. By following this guide, you can ensure your artwork and antiques will survive the move and be ready to be displayed in your new home.

There are a few methods, packing materials and ways to transport art, and it is important to know the differences when sending specific objects. While a framed canvas may require a picture box and corner protectors, a delicate sculpture will require an outsized package and soft padding.

This guide offers tips on how to pack and ship artwork so that the valuable item you adore arrives in the same sensitive condition.

Appraising and insuring

Before you even take the art off the wall or stand, you need to have it appraised and insured. Having your item appraised is very important since it tells you the value of the art, which could have very well changed since you purchased it. Most often, artwork will go up or down in value as time passes. Once you find out how much your work is worth, common sense will tell you to have it insured if you do not already have it covered under an indemnity carrier.

Packing artwork

If there is any doubt that you can handle your fragile piece of art as you pack and ship it, then it would be wise to hire a packing service to wrap and bring it to the shipper. After having it appraised and finding out its worth, you may very well opt to have other hands grip your art. If you don't decide to hand the task over, then the following tips will help you keep your prized pieces in pristine condition from origin to destination.

Framed Artwork- If you are packing a photograph or painting that is framed, the first thing you want to do is place two pieces of masking tape on the glass in the shape of an X. Tape the X shape from the top to the bottom of the frame and not just in the middle of the glass. This is done in the case that if the glass breaks during transport, it does not shatter and shred or scar the photograph or canvas underneath. After you have taped the glass, now it is time to put the corner protectors on the frame. This will keep the frame bends from being damaged during the move.

Now that you have taped the glass and placed the corner protectors on, it is time to wrap the piece of art in bubble wrap. After you have securely enfolded it in the air- filled packing material, it is time to carefully place it in a picture box. For extra precaution, take cardboard and tape it over the bubble wrap before placing the framed art in the package. Once it is in the box, you can seal the cardboard with heavy masking tape and mark the container in bold letters labeled "Fragile-Artwork."

Unframed Artwork - If you are packing a photograph or painting that is unframed, you will treat it differently than framed art. Since the print or canvas is exposed to the air and not under glass, you will obviously not tape it with the noted X shape. However, you must still protect the print or canvas by wrapping it in unprinted newspaper. You want to avoid using printed newspaper since the ink can bleed onto the print or canvas. After you have wrapped it in the newspaper, you can swathe the piece of art in bubble wrap. Now that it is completely covered, you can place it in the picture box and mark the container in bold letters labeled "Fragile-Artwork."

Packing sculptures

Packing sculptures is not as intricate as packing artwork, though you must still handle the expensive items with delicate care. To pack a sculpture, you will need to find a box that is a bit bigger than the statue since you will be surrounding it with Styrofoam peanuts. There are many different sized boxes, so be sure to purchase or find a durable free box that will suffice. Once you have found the right carton, you can begin to cover the piece of art in unprinted newspaper since, as with unframed art, the ink on printed newspaper can bleed onto the object and ruin its rare appearance.

After wrapping in the newspaper, you can place the piece of art in the box, centering it in the middle. After you do so, pour Styrofoam peanuts over the object, filling the box all the way up to the top. You should not be able to see any part of the wrapped artwork. Now that it is completely packed, you can close the box and tape it securely and mark the container in bold letters labeled "Fragile-Artwork."

Shipping artwork and sculptures

Your prized photograph, painting or sculpture is now securely packed and ready for shipment, and it is time to transport it to the desired destination. There are various ways to ship artwork, which can be transported via vehicle, train, airplane or ship. Shipping packages internationally is different than shipping domestically. If you are transporting artwork overseas, you will want to research the country you are shipping it to so you are sure to follow all the international shipping regulations and prohibitions.

Once you have found out the rules and regulations of the respective country, you can proceed with shipping the package. Though you may want to handle the paperwork and package yourself, it is also wise to hire a fine art handling company to assist you in moving your art internationally or domestically so it arrives in protected and in pristine condition. A fine art handling company can also assist you with packaging, storage and installation. After your artwork is packaged and shipped, you must trust in the hands that are treating it, and remember, you have it insured in the case that those hands are a little shaky.

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on August 27, 2009

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