Among the many reasons why art restoration can be required, artworks damaged in transit is a frequent cause. When we are contacted with this type of enquiry, clients are sometimes unsure how best to proceed when they need to liaise with the third parties involved (such as removal firms, couriers, shippers, etc), their insurers, and the restoration company.
We can provide initial practical steps to follow, whether that is for the owner of the artwork, insurer, or third-party service involved to lessen a stressful situation. This can include how to minimise unnecessary escalation of damage, thus minimising claim costs.
Artworks that arrive in our studio each week that have been damaged in transit range considerably. Artworks often have inappropriate packaging for the specific piece and will adhere to the artwork. When clients begin to remove the packaging, paint can often be removed.
Other issues we see include damage to frames with decorative detailing, stretcher bars (what artworks on canvas are stretched over) that have been damaged or broken, tears and punctures to artworks, and packaging residue or imprints on the artworks.
By contacting an organisation like ourselves, the individual has already taken the first step to rectifying the issue. The information we then need to ascertain includes:
What damage has occurred?
How has the damage happened?
What proportion of the artwork is affected?
We will also need to know the artwork’s dimensions, age and medium. Having a visual reference is vital, and we always ask if photographs can be sent over.
It is also very useful if the client is able to provide photographs of how the artwork looked prior to the damage, where possible. This will assist the conservator who is going to eventually conserve and restore the artwork, and it will also help when liaising with third parties involved and insurers.
Liaising with insurers and third parties involved
Clients can discover the damage to their artwork in two ways; either the third party involved divulges the incident, or the client finds damage upon delivery/unwrapping the artwork.
If the former occurs, we are sometimes contacted directly by the third-party company who are looking to rectify the issue on behalf of the owner. In these instances, we deal directly with a representative from the third party company by guiding them and requesting necessary preliminary details and photographs.
Whenever artwork is transported, we strongly advise the owner to unwrap and check on the condition of their artwork as quickly as possible. If they are unable to, for example, if they are abroad, it would be sensible to ask someone on their behalf to do so. Reducing the time between the third party delivering the artwork and the owner checking on its condition is important.
It is always advisable for clients to check the terms and conditions of their agreement with the third party they appoint before agreeing to transportation.
We can also provide insurers with advice and possible reasons as to why damage has occurred to help progress claims. Examples in the past have been inappropriate packaging for the nature of the artwork and/or environmental conditions. This is especially so for relatively new paintings that are still drying and settling and don’t take well to being wrapped in heavy packaging.
Restoration and Costs
Depending on the preferences of the owner, insurance company dealing with the claim, or third party involved, we can assess the artworks either in person at our studio or on-site using our own collection and delivery service, or from photographs. We can then provide our detailed recommendations and quote to the relevant parties involved for consideration.
During the assessment, we will provide recommendations for work to be completed related to the damage for this claim only. We can also, if required, provide our more detailed recommendations for full conservation, which may take into account treatment for historic damage and unrelated issues. This is always separated from the primary issue.
If clients ask third parties to deliver their items to storage, it is important to ascertain how the storage facility will be able to catalogue artworks received and their policy on taking photographs when items arrive. In addition, it is advisable to understand the environment in which items are stored, particularly when specialist contents such as paintings are involved as these may need specific environmental requirements.
We provide conservation-appropriate storage of artworks for varying durations.
Choosing the right transport
It is advisable for clients to transport artworks with reputable companies who have experience in handling art. There are companies that specialise in providing fine art logistics and solutions for the packing, casing, handling and transporting of delicate or large artworks. It is safer to choose a company that is well-practised in handling artworks and understanding the specifics of doing so, rather than accruing unnecessary restoration costs.
Value of Artworks
It is a consideration of many art owners to regularly obtain valuations to ensure their artwork has a suitable level of insurance. This is important for when artworks are being transported, and are in the hands of another company. It is vital to check that any artwork being moved and under the care of a third-party service is covered on that company’s insurance. We would always advise seeking the services of a company that will provide the relevant and appropriate level of insurance.
The advice provided here also extends to ceramics, furniture, frames, and textiles. For any ceramic items that are damaged in transit, it is important to try to collect as many broken pieces as possible to assist with the restoration and lessen costs.
Moving home or specialist contents can be a fraught time, without the addition of unnecessary damage. We can liaise with the third party services and insurance companies on the client’s behalf where necessary, to reduce worry and expedite the return of the restored items.
If you have clients who have faced such issues or are dealing with such claims, we would be happy to provide advice and assistance where needed.