Cris Drugan ISA-AM, MIPAV-OS is the principle of Emerald Art Services, LLC and an accredited Personal Property Appraiser since 1999. Cris currently serves as Vice President on the board of the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve and is also a member of the International Society of Appraisers and the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers in Ireland.
Don't let your artwork go up in smoke.
In the past few years, we've seen the tragic loss of cultural artifacts due to fire—the destruction of the National Museum of Brazil, Notre-Dame's disastrous structure fire and California's seemingly constant blazing wildfires.
Even more shocking is that according to the National Fire Protection Association, every 24 seconds a fire department in the United States responds to a fire somewhere in the nation.
It's not just fire that is a threat to your artworks.
Aside from the direct damage to your property, fire creates other conditions that will affect everything in your home. Burning material produces smoke containing a cocktail of nasty chemicals as well as black powdery particles called "carbon black." Carbon black consists of tiny molecules that result from the incomplete combustion of organic material and can be smaller than a human blood cell! These particles will enter the tiniest of cracks and crevasses, and create an oily smelly mess.
Burning organic material also releases water in the form of steam which condenses on cooler surfaces causing water damage. Let’s not forget about the water that the fire department is spraying on your property to put the fire out!
Everyone tells you to prepare for fire by…
Check your smoke detectors and replace batteries once a year.
Get a fire extinguisher.
Conduct fire drills so that everyone knows what to do and where to meet.
Keep a copy of your emergency contacts and important papers off-site.*
*Online art collection management systems like Artwork Archive are crucial for safeguarding important information and documents. If your art is in jeopardy, you can easily find key contacts, access information like value and condition reports, and share digital copies of your papers.
Example of fire damage provided by Cris Drugan.
Life safety is ALWAYS your first priority.
After you've ensured that you and your loved ones are safe, it's time to prepare for the requirements of your insurer. Your policy and adjuster will help you with this, but your preparation should include a household inventory including pictures and an appraisal of any unique or higher value property. This will be invaluable should you need to prove ownership or demonstrate value after the property is damaged or destroyed.
Be proactive and inventory your artwork.
You'll be thanking yourself later if all of your collection details and financial records are stored in one, easily accessible place. Collectors from around the world use Artwork Archive to track values, appraisals, images and other important details that prove ownership and clearly confirm the value of the piece. If your art is damaged or destroyed, you'll want to give your insurer all of the information they need to support your claim.
If you have physical receipts and transaction documents, consider storing this information offsite at a friend's or relative's home or in a safe deposit box at your bank.
Home safes are not reliable.
Many home safes may prevent their contents from burning, but often the contents will dry out and become brittle, melt (videos or external storage drives) or generally become unusable.
Get your work appraised.
Ensure that you have up-to-date values for your works so that you are not arguing with your insurer at an already stressful time.
Don't know where to start? The appraiser you hire should be familiar with the type of property you want to get appraised. A qualified appraiser has formal education in appraisal theory, principles, procedures, ethics, and law, and will be up to date with the latest appraisal standards—yes they change! Without appraisal training, there is no way of understanding the complicated variety of marketplace definitions that are used to determine the appropriate value for an assigned use.