Responding and taking care of smoke damaged paintings, art and antiques is a job or need with which you will require expert, professional help. This
article tells about a couple of recent true-life stories designed to save you tons of $ and distress. Take the coaching to heart and plan ahead to avoid bigger problems if you have the misfortune to have to deal with this situation (act… don’t react!). The problem is aggravated, especially, if you have in your possession the property of others (artwork on consignment, for example). Actually, both of these stories tell of a fire NEXT door that affected the collection of art in question.
1st Story (Take note if you live in a condo or have art located in a business)
After the fire, a new roof on the old building was required. This obviously affected everyone under the roof. Even though the artwork in question next door to the fire was not damaged in the fire, the clean up and repairs were going to impact the art gallery. As the landlord and roofing company planned the work, it was clear they had no idea about protecting artwork or the value… and therefore the potential liability. (1st tip) It was the responsibility of the lessee to inform them of the precautions that needed to be taken!! In this case, the gallery owner had an art conservator that he knew and he related the detailed instructions and precautions to the roofing company… who ignored him. The response was, “This isn’t our first rodeo, we’ve done this before and know what we are doing.” Fortunately, the gallery owner did not back down and read the “riot act” to him, let him know he was going to be liable and related the dialog to the landlord. This up front dialog with all concerned (and a threatened law suit up front), saved the gallery owner the cost of a massive clean up when the roofing project “didn’t go the way the roofing company thought” which was a $25K bill plus reimbursement for downtime. (2nd tip) A specialized professional in the gallery owner’s pocket gave him credibility.
Just this morning, as I was writing this article, I got a phone call from a gallery in New York (I’m in CA). The fire next door to him smoked his inventory badly. He got lucky and was being assisted by the disaster response company, ServPro who had declined to handle and clean the artwork admitting that the liability was too high and that artwork is not within their training. Interestingly, when a company says this to a client, it inspires the client to believe that the contractor tells him the truth and can be trusted! (Tips #3) The gallery owner was doing exactly the right thing by searching out a professional art conservator with disaster response experience. The art conservator that he knew didn’t know anything about disaster response (handling lots of objects (possibly damaged) all at once which includes packing, safe handling, safe storage practices and may include handling items exposed to toxic materials). In our phone conversation I referred him to the website for the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) which has a referral program for someone closest to him.
Left photo – During removal of smoke damage…
Right photo – After cleaning, it regained 100% of its original value and is in perfect condition.
As an example of the capabilities of a high quality art conservation lab, the above photo shows a painting that was written off by the insurance company as a total loss, but was beloved by the owner. Fortunately, the disaster response company (ServPro) realized that they did not have the expertise to clean the artwork and didn’t muck around with futile attempts. Fine Art Conservation Laboratories is specialized in the handling, evaluating, testing and cleaning of artwork. This photo is a during cleaning shot. The final result was perfect with little or no inpainting (retouching) required. Obviously, the painting conservators were heroes for the clients and ServPro!
Here is an article from an Insurance Broker who specializes in Fine Art and Antiques policies with tips in filing a claim: https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/insurance/smoke-damage-on-collectibles-heirlooms-and-antiques-tips-for-making-an-insurance-claim/
Left – After the painting was cleaned by a restorer who didn’t know anything about the secrets of removing smoke damage from valuable and sensitive art.
Right – After it was cleaned a second time by Fine Art Conservation Laboratories.
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