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Art During Hurricanes

When hurricanes strike, the damage of high winds, flooding and salt-water waves, can wreak havoc on your art. In the United States, the hurricane season in the Atlantic beings June 1 and ends November 30. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.

No matter where you live, protecting your fine arts and family treasures from damage from strong storms such as hurricanes and typhoons should be a key factor in determining how you store and display items in your home. Securing these possessions in advance may help minimize future damage. The following are loss-prevention tips from Rustin Levenson, director of the Florida Conservation Associates, who rescued over 5,000 works from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Before the Hurricane:

  • Make a list of all works in your collection. Include notes about any existing damage, as well as the condition of the frames and bases.
  • Be sure that wall hangings are secure. Remember that wet plaster lacks structural integrity, so artworks hung on plaster walls could fall. Make sure that art hung on outside walls of your home are spaced from the wall. Spacers can be purchased from a hardwood store or created by taping or screwing pieces of wood to the back of the frame. If possible, drape or wrap nonsticky art with plastic to prevent water damage. Works framed in glass may be taped, but Plexiglass should not be taped.
  • If works are taken off the wall, place them in an interior room. Elevate the items at least three inches off the floor with blocks of wood. If the surface of the work is not tacky, wrap it in plastic sheeting. Separate stacked works with cardboard larger than the size of the frame.
  • Outdoor sculptures should be brought inside or secured outside. Sculpture left outdoors can be wrapped in burlap or blankets tied with rope to protect them from flying sand or objects.

After the Hurricane:

  • Early treatment is the best way to help reduce damage. Contact a professional conservator for assistance as soon as possible. For referrals to Chubb’s independent network of conservators, appraisers and other fine art specialists, click on “Can We Help You” above.
  • If works are wet, gently blot off excess moisture with towels or blotting paper. Carefully remove wet backings, mats and frames.
  • Move wet artwork to an air-conditioned area as soon as possible. Meanwhile, to reduce mold and mildew, keep the works in a lighted area where the air is kept moving with fans.
  • Remove any protective wrapping on outdoor objects and rinse with clean water.
  • Dust items left indoors. A fine layer of salt will be deposited on works left indoors. Dust these items with a soft brush and wipe metal objects with a soft, lint-free cloth.

To learn more about hurricane preparedness, visit the National Hurricane Center.

The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.