Smoke Damaged Art and Collectibles – a question of liability

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:

I could tell I wasn't in SoCal anymore.

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.

Handling the smoke damaged artwork

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.

framed collectibles smoke damaged

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.

Being careful during handling of smoke damaged collectibles.

Jaryn McKnight, Area Manager, Elite Restoration Inc.
621 South Main Unit B
Bellevue, Idaho 83313
(208) 788-9463 office
(208) 721-3830 cell
(208) 734-6304 fax

FACL – Scott M. Haskins, Virginia Panizzon, Oriana Montemurro, Art Conservators 805 564 3438

About Scott Haskins

Scott M. Haskins has been a professional art conservator since 1975. He is also author of "How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster". He may be contacted at 805 564 3438
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