These Damage Stories Will Make Your Art-loving Heart Break
Perhaps the most publicized story, in 2006 business magnate Steve Wynn infamously elbowed his most beloved and iconic painting, Picasso’s Le Rêve. The unfortunate mishaps took place while showing the painting to reporters. It cost $90,000 to repair the damage. So much for “off the records”!
To share a story from our own experience, one of our appraisers once witnessed a $15,000 chair get irreparably crushed between the doors of a freight elevator.
In 2015, King Tut’s chair was damaged in a move between museums as a result of pure carelessness. This unfortunate event followed news of botched restoration to the king’s mask. Let’s hope no one is haunted for the sub-par handling and treatment!
In 2004, Artnews shared the story of an employee at a SoHo gallery who enthusiastically unwrapped a poorly packaged work of art that had been shipped to them. To their utter dismay, he accidentally ripped up the drawing in his fervor.
While traveling from Paris to The Armory Show last year, a Lucio Fontana sculpture was found damaged in its crate. Still pending is the legal retribution for damage that Lloyd’s of London is seeking from the responsible art handling companies and airliner.
It is not uncommon for pets to damage a collector’s favorite work of art. In one instance, a painting resting against a wall fell onto a dog. The spooked dog leaped and pranced about on the painting, resulting in several punctures through the canvas.
When Fine Art Meets Bubble Wrap
by Simon Hornby, President of Crozier Fine Arts
With an increasing number of collectors shipping art from art fairs to their private homes, plenty can go wrong during transit. According to Simon Horby, President of Crozier Fine Arts, the majority of damage to art occurs when a piece is moved. Whether lending art to institutions for exhibit or shipping art from auction houses to tax advantaged locations such as Delaware or Switzerland, the movement of art can be a complex process.
For example, the client who chooses a ‘common carrier’ – a general commodity packer, shipper or storage business who will transport and store anything from art to furniture to bicycles – to transport their million dollar painting may find its canvas punctured upon arrival due to improper packing and handling. For this reason, the importance of selecting appropriate transportation and storage for valuable objects cannot be understated. Hornby emphasizes that works should only be transported using shippers experienced in handling art. To ensure safe transport, it is highly recommended that art is stabilized and transported in air-ride, climate-controlled, GPS- tracked and alarmed trucks. It is also recommended that clients get a condition report prior to having anything transported just to verify that no damage occurred during transit.
Choosing a company that has a TSA-approved Certified Cargo Screening Facility (CCSF) may also prevent damage during transit. Under TSA rules, all cargo, including packed crates, loaded onto domestic and international passenger flights must be individually screened. Screening may involve inspection, unpacking and handling of the artwork, which if performed by trained art specialists at a CCSF, ensures safe handling.
Lastly, find out whether third party shippers or other subcontractors will be involved, especially when hauling valuable objects long distances or internationally. If this occurs, make sure that the contracted party has experience transporting and handling fine art and also has adequate security measures in place (e.g., tracked trucks and background checks on its employees).
Although most damage to fine art and collectibles occurs during transport, the storage environment of these objects is equally critical. Best practices dictate that fine art be housed in a climate-controlled environment and in fire resistant, sole-use warehouses. Additionally, fine art storage facilities should be alarmed and equipped with 24-hour system monitoring and be properly insured.
Simon Hornby is the President of Crozier Fine Arts, the leading provider of global art logistic solutions.