A fine work of art should enrich our lives, but we also have to remember our duty to cherish and protect what can be an extremely valuable item. Artworks can be at risk during the process of installation, in the environment in which they are displayed, in the way they are stored, and when they are moved–each situation calls for the use of best practice as developed by internationally renowned galleries and museums.
We asked Giles Bristow, General Manager of Momentous Fine Art, what private collectors can do to guarantee their art is kept in the best condition.
London-based Momentous Fine Art is a specialised fine art installation and logistics provider which has been working with curators and private collectors in the United Kingdom and across Europe for over 40 years, leading a wide range of installation projects within private residences from townhouses to countryside estates.
Giles Bristow explained, “I have worked in fine art and interior design for over 25 years and have project managed many types of installations and de-installations at stately homes and luxury private residences. There are several key factors within the fine art industry that can be employed to ensure a successful installation or de-installation. Top of the list is empathy and time. Understanding both the client’s requirements and the works to be installed are critical.”
Each project will have a team of technicians working closely to ensure professionalism and discretion through several project phases.
Typically, the first phase will be a client consultation. Here the client’s aspirations for their collection is mapped out, and potential technical challenges identified and solved. For instance, timings and availability, whether they will be bringing in works from other residences, storage or overseas will all be taken into consideration.
The next step will be a professional site survey to understand access points, light, architectural barriers and the overall breadth of the spaces where the works will be installed. Once the survey is completed, a plan is drafted to systematically install the works in a proactive, safe and efficient manner.
As Giles Bristow says, “We utilise the information we have gathered from the consultation, the site survey and the experience of our technicians to create a bespoke plan so that it meets the client’s needs. Even if it is a single piece, we would still follow this basic best practice. In some cases the number of works in a private collection could easily rival some galleries.”
An inventory is of course an essential aspect both in any moving process and for purposes such as insurance valuations, and can also be used to record where in a new location each work is to be installed.
Once the logistical process has started, the team of technicians will pack items, an art in itself; custom-made crating will incorporate shock and climate protection to ensure the artwork is preserved during transport by land, sea or air, and in storage. In some cases bespoke shipping cases will have to be constructed.
One of the most complicated aspects of art logistics is international shipping; the range of issues to deal with here stretches from relatively simple issues such as size, weight and content restrictions, to export invoices, trade tariff commodity codes, customs charges, taxes, import duty, VAT, reimporting and export licences for cultural goods. An art consignment specialist will help you to deal with these, as well as with the EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number used by customs and other authorities to monitor and track shipments coming into and out of the European Union.
Transport vehicles for art logistics are often custom-built with a climate-controlled, insulated body and air ride suspension, security and tracking systems, and drivers trained to drive carrying fine art pieces. At airports, some shippers will offer a ‘witness loading’ service, so in addition to GPS tracking, clients can get visual confirmation that their items have been safely placed onboard.
Installation of the artwork at its destination may require construction of display units or hanging facilities, and here Momentous Fine Art can supply fabricators and technicians from crane operators to conservators. The final step is to advise on security, as well as maintaining the look and feel of each room.
Just as important as the logistics of moving fine art are the requirements for storing it, and again, whether for a private collector, a gallery or museum, experts such as Momentous Fine Art can provide the right facilities and expertise to protect the most delicate masterwork for you and the future.
The art logistics world is bound to become more complex and demanding of specialists as the online art market encourages international shipping. As Giles Bristow says, “Over the years the one thing that I have learnt that matters the most to our clients is empathy. We always think about the project as what would we do if it was our investment, our money, our time?”
About Momentous Fine Art
At Momentous, our roots go deep in the world of fine art and antique shipping, having begun life as independent fine art shipping company B.B.F Shipping over 30 years ago. B.B.F Shipping was purchased and became part of Baxter’s International group, which several years ago was re-branded as Momentous. We provide bespoke art shipping, storage, logistics and handling solutions to suit our clients’ needs and requirements. From the smallest painting to a large-scale art exhibition, each job is handled with care and attention.
We provide bespoke art shipping, storage, logistics and handling solutions to suit our clients’ needs and requirements. From the smallest painting to a large-scale art exhibition, each job is handled with care and attention.
Our trained and experienced team of industry experts provide our worldwide clients with a highly effective and professional service.
This feature was originally published in the spring edition of Arts and Collections, which you can also read here.