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Smoke damage on paintings and other artwork-collectible objects is cleaned up and restored with a lot more caution and the “liability factor” is a big issue. Our professional art restoration services center around doing these treatments correctly, which means that nothing is done without first insuring that the process won’t damage the collectible short term or long term. But that’s not the thinking process for some disaster response companies which think they need to do everything themselves in-house. How can an unprofessional person, hitting things with a sponge, do the same kind of quality work? Here’s an example of a situation that happened this week:
Southern California this week (even on this winter day) was close to 70 degrees. So, when AIG insurance company and Elite-Restoration Inc. (disaster response company) agreed to fly me to Sun Valley, Idaho to inspect and estimate the needs and costs of art conservation treatments on 40-60 smoke damaged items… I was unprepared psychologically for the -10 degree temperature that hit me like a ton of bricks when I walked out of my hotel in the morning. But traveling to help people get the right quality professional help is part our business.
Elite-Restoration already had in hand an inventory (with a photo) that I could use and to which I added my expert observations. The smoky smell was staggering when we opened up the storage facility.
I reviewed each of the 40 framed items suggesting the ways that the smell could be permanently eliminated. But what about all the “pre-existing conditions” that could be worked on while they were being cleaned in order to help “dial-in” the items to their best condition? AIG will not be responsible for paying these charges and the owners are aware and honest about it.
With my art conservation proposal and budget in hand, Elite-Restoration and AIG had a professional tool to help manage their project efficiently and to help minimize their liability.
In this case, the responsibility of this clean up job was given to FACL to perform which distanced, even more, Elite-Restoration from the liability of working on the valuable artwork and the items the family felt emotional about saving in its best condition. After all, the goal is to get back to pre-damaged condition and restore peace of mind to the insured.
FACL – Scott M. Haskins, Virginia Panizzon, Oriana Montemurro, Art Conservators 805 564 3438
Virginia Panizzon, a painting conservator in our lab, made this quick blow-by video of the art conservation of a very sweet Spanish Colonial Madonna painting:
Although the video highlights the painting restoration of an old master painting, and you may have questions about the repair of a more modern painting, many of the processes… and excellent results… are the same.
You will see other education videos connected with this video and we invite you to call us with your questions. Call Virginia Panizzon at 805 564 3438. Our lab picks up and delivers through SoCal to San Diego, through Las Vegas to SLC and up to Monterey and Carmel. We work on murals and other large projects, on site, all over the US and foreign.
Give a call and make an informed decision when you have a damaged painting.
Can you image?! You are gone from the house on a trip and a water pipe breaks and leaks at full pressure into your house for 10 days. Actually, I have an even worst story! Thomas Kinkade’s Lake Tahoe weekend home had a water pipe break and ran full power in his house for months! The inside of the house became so saturated that the sheet rock peeled off the walls and, of course, the mold was out of control (We worked through the insurance company to take care of over 75 items).
Such were the woes of TWO separate families that called me last week!! The owner that I went to see had the presence of mind to not let the restoration company (ServPro) handle the cleaning of the artwork (in fact we are the subcontractor for several ServPro franchises that refuse to assume the liability directly of working on valuable items). I was called over to review the artwork and provide the insurance company, State Farm, with the reports and estimates for repair (art conservation treatments).
I’m pleased to report that State Farm handled the matter with utmost speed and efficiency and have been a blessing in the lives of the insured. Its been a real pleasure to work with these insurance professionals on this project. Here are some photos with some comments:
I just completed a fine art claim evaluation from Chubb. I was hired to look over an estate in the Los Angeles area to determine smoke damage to fine art, sculpture, frames, decorated and gilt surfaces and murals that resulted from brush fires 2 years ago, 40 miles away.
Obviously, there is probably more dust from the last two years than there are deposits from smoke. It might have been possible to analyze the “dust” with sophisticated analytical means to determine the difference between dust and smoke but that option would have cost $1,000′s and was rejected.
In the end, there are actually two questions: 1. Are there smoke deposits and 2. Do they cause damage? Since the analysis option was rejected, the presence of deposits from smoke was impossible for me to see with the naked eye. So, that question is unanswerable. So, my visit was to confirm or reject the claim of damage as a result of smoke deposits.
I carefully went through 10 pages of itemized objects that were represented in the $500,000.00 claim for repairs. The client accompanied me through the property explaining what he saw as the damages and concerns. He showed me gilt finishes that he thought had altered in color because of exposure to the smoke.
It is my opinion that the “alterations” that the client points out are actually diverse colors of original finishes that perhaps he no longer remembers or was aware of… but is now noticing. The gold decorated surfaces including architectural moldings, door frames, hanging light surrounds etc do not appear to me to be damaged because they were coated with a protective “varnish” when they were originally made. So, the smoke would have never touched the surface of the gilding (which was actually paint in most of the areas!). Close inspection and testing of the acrylic surface protective varnish was done on the columns in the entry hallway (which are included on the claim). Then, the characteristics of this protective finish were compared to and identified on all other gold surfaces I could personally inspect and it is assumed that the decorative finisher/artist’s technique was the same on all gilt surfaces (that were high and out of the way which I could not inspect close up).
The only place this gold finish is damaged/oxided/altered is on the banister of the grand staircase which is due to constant rubbing and exposure to oils and deposits from hands, not from the exposure to smoke. The protective acrylic coatings on the “gold” through out the house show no evidence of debris/deposits of smoke.
So, after my careful inspection, of all the individual items/objects (paintings, frames, etc) and finishes my opinion in my report is that there is no alteration of varnish finishes on artwork. The claimed alterations on frames finishes appear to be indistinguishable. And the varnish coatings on the gold protected them from any damage.
In this case, the result of my visit was good for Chubb. .. it could save them having to pay out the $500,000.00 claim. But then again, I inspected a single painting once for Chubb that was a claim for just shy of $1/2 million and they paid out even though they didn’t have to because they wanted to keep the client who had a massive collection, boats and other toys, houses etc all insured with them. So, in the end, what motivates the business of how an insurance company settles a claim?
Well, all that is not really my problem. I’m an advocate for the artwork. I tell “it” straight regardless of who is paying my billing. That makes me a credible expert witness and legal testimony.Decorative moldings were through out the house… painted in gold, not gilt.
I recently evaluated a mural in an ex-bank building. As they were moving out a filing cabinet scrapped across a historic mural from 1945 and put a big gash in it. See the scratch in the right side? I was called by an insurance broker to drive 2 hours to inspect it, look it over, give an estimate to make the damage disappear and write up the reports.
Need help with insurance settlement questions? Call Scott 805 564 3438
Art appraisal questions? Call Richard 805 895 5121
An insurance company recently paid me to drive 5 hours to double check the opinion of another art conservator on a fine art damage claim that occurred during shipping of an Old Master painting. The estimate by the other conservator for the restoration work on a 5 ft x 5 ft oil painting is $60,000.00! I would do it for almost a 10th of the price and make good money… and bring it back to pre-exisiting condition.
Infact, therein lies the devil (in the details). The $60,000 estimate included x rays and other analysis that they said were required prior to clean the painting (which wasn’t necessary.) They also wanted about 6 times the normal hours to clean the back of the painting, even if the task had been done by an intern (while required work, we could have done a comparable job for 1/6th the effort). The final touch up of the lost paint along the rips was a 10 hour job… not 80 hours! All work not only approved by the owner of the painting, he insisted that this firm do the work.
This is a story that makes me scratch my head.
Evaluation questions: Call Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438
The Fine Art Conservation Lab website is http://www.fineartconservationlab.com
Also, see our YouTube Channel at “bestartdoc” at http://www.youtube.com/user/bestartdoc?feature=mhee
Chubb just brought me in to look at a high priced huge contemporary painting that has been in storage for many years. During that time, the packing materials have stuck to the surface due to storage conditions, the improper wrapping methods and the materials used in the construction of the artwork.
I went on location to look at the artwork with the owner and the Chubb Insurance claim adjuster and thought I was there to do tests and evaluate how much effort would be required to “fix” the problem. But when I got there, I was told I couldn’t touch anything. I wasn’t there to test and fix… I was there to testify and confirm about the extent of the damage.
So, I wrote up the desired reports for Chubb and we are waiting to hear if Chubb will want us to do the art conservation work. Another conservator was brought in from New York. I’m not sure why because she just confirmed what I said and didn’t want to tackle the difficult repair problems.
I travel far and wide to evaluate damage and give estimates for art conservation/restoration repairs. In fact, I will fly out within a 24 hour notice if you are in need. Call us at our office toll free 888 704 7757 or call me anytime on my mobile at 805 570 4140.
We’re working on our new website at www.fineartconservationlab.com. Also, see:
Art Valuation, Estate Planning, Probate, Divorce, Fine Art Insurance – The True Story of a “Priceless Icon”
Fought over in a bitter divorce settlement, then stolen and recuperated, hand delivered to me by a white gloved driver in a Rolls Royce and then threatened with my life… this story of a “Priceless Russian Renaissance Icon” has a few twists and turns… and a great moral to the story.
Art valuations and appraisals seem like a “no brainer” for inheritance (IRS) and probate. But what about divorce settlement, estate planning, evaluating fine art insurance?
The process may require art analysis and art authentication services; it may involve art fraud. You may need the services of an expert witness and legal testimony… or at least official reports and documentation.
Call Richard Holgate at 805 895 5121,
Authentication/Condition of Artwork Questions?
Call Scott Haskins 805 564 3438
Also of interest:
I got a call the other day from Encino, CA where a very nice lady had suffered smoke damage in her house. Fortunately the whole house was not lost. I was being approached for only one item: a special limited edition print with studio hand applied enhancements by Thomas Kinkade in its original frame, as sold by the Thomas Kinkade galleries.
Farmers Insurance had required the owner, Barbara, to speak with a conservator (us) about the process of cleaning off surface debris and what would be required to remove the smell.
The process requires a complete dismantling of the painting from the frame, then the artwork from it’s strainer, various techniques of cleaning and then “sealing” in the smell from all components. Though there are quite a few steps, the artwork in its frame will look perfect as it did before the damage.
Cleaning companies, specialized in smoke damage abatement and mitigation, often understand the liability of cleaning works of art. Adjusters and agents should encourage cleaning companies to sub out the conservation restoration work to a specialist that better understands the difficulties and does not employ untrained labor.
Call our office to discuss, free of charge, any questions you may have.
Scott M., Haskins 805 564 3438