By Annia Bonifaz, Guest Blogger
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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Wow, If I saw a painting or other art that was smoke damaged, I would quickly assume that it was not repairable. These tips are great to keep around for a bad situation. Great job on the restoration of those paintings, they are very clean!
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Thanks for this blog post and for posting these great comments. Very helpful. #SmokeDamagedArt
So, if I didn’t have insurance, then what do I do with my art and antiques?! #ArtandAntiquesRestorationSmokeDamage
Thanks for leaving your question Ariel. What you mention is a heartbreak situation but all too common… not common because people are not prepared but because things like #FamilyHistoryCollectibles, love letters etc are not insurable like paintings and antiques.There are some great suggestions in this book http://www.CollectionCareTips.com that you can download for free.
I agreed to leave a comment on this blog post because, as a Farmer’s Insurance claims agent, we had such a great experience with FACL and Scott Haskins that we will never use any other painting conservation company. We are so lucky to have found them to help our clients.
Thanks Kevin for your nice comment and we enjoy working with you and your company on #ArtRestorationLosAngeles projects.
We had a bad disaster at our home in Las Vegas and fortunately, our disaster response company declined the liability of cleaning our artwork. So, we had to go look for a restoration company on our own and we found FACL and Scott Haskins. Everyone was so professional and accommodating. The results were 1st class and 1st quality.
May, thank you for your nice comment and for having faith in our expertise. As painful as your situation was, it was a very pleasant experience working with you!
I am an insurance broker in Orange County, CA and I can tell you, this article is gold.
Thanks Steve. I appreciate the comment.
What do you do if the paint has bubbled because of the heat?
Is there a way to clean my smoked art myself?
Thanks for leaving your question, which I hear often. Perhaps you would like to see more about what goes into cleaning an oil painting? Here is our YouTube channel and the section on Tips For Vintage Art Collectors: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF2ECE8D861D3D638
I can’t believe that the picture of the old man looked so bad after someone who was a trained restorer had already cleaned it. I mean, I can believe it but its amazing they did such a bad job. Was it the lady who cleaned the picture of Christ for the Greek Church (Behold the Monkey) ?!?!!?
Lol, Michael… in this case, at least, it was lucky the artwork wasn’t damaged.
I called Scott Haskins about a problem I’m having with a claim and his suggestions were spot on and helped me immediately.
FACL is my go-to art conservation company for quality painting conservation work and solid knowledge. Take note of what this article suggests!
Thanks Edward. TTYS
Very good info indeed. Thank you!
Our claims office called Scott Haskins from Florida to check on a job in San Diego to double check the quality of the work and honesty of the reports we were receiving. We can confirm his company’s professionalism and knowledge.
Diane, thanks for your trust in us and, as always, we will look forward to being your go-to experts.
We had some smoke damage on our art and antiques handled by FACL some years ago and I want to say that, besides doing an A-1 job, they were very flexible and sensitive to our needs during a very stressful time. Thanks.
Thanks Lisa, for leaving the nice comment. Best wishes!
The photo of the fruit is mine and I was blown away by the results. The artwork looked perfect and more beautiful, infact, than I ever remember having seen it before. Thanks FACL.
I feel fortunate to have found this info. I spoke with Scott Haskins on the phone today and he was most helpful.
Sound, professional advise. Thank you very much.
In a time of disaster in a home there is a “procedure” for getting the right response from all the right people. But this article puts the focus on a normally ignored problem, or at least these issues with valuable art and heirlooms get superficially explained away as unimportant enough to make special arrangements. TAKE NOTE EVERYONE… its worth making the special arrangements they discuss in this article!#SmokeDamagedArtwork #SmokeDamagedOilPainting
If I knew what you just wrote about a couple of years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of grief and probably saved some treasure family heirlooms that were badly damaged by our disaster response company. #SmokeDamagedArtwork #SmokeDamagedOilPainting
Sorry to hear that Fransen. Best wishes. Scott
This sounds like the “voice of experience” imparting wisdom. Thanks for your impartial recommendations. #SmokeDamagedArtwork #SmokeDamagedOilPainting
Thank you for this info! It is very useful to us at this moment.