Secured Storage: A Glance behind the Scene!
Works of art travel from one place to another, from one country to another. In Geneva, Henri Harsch HH SA has been specializing in the transport of works of art for over 60 years. Hervé Pierron, in charge of the storage department at Harsch, tells us more about it.
What elements are essential to the storage of works of art?
Hervé Pierron: “Several elements have to be taken into account, but it is essential to have an adjustable space. The surface at our disposal amounts to several thousand square metres and that allows us to store works of art of all sorts of sizes, from a monumental statue to a painting not bigger than a book. The variety of the works of art makes their storage much more complex. The space needed for each item has to be calculated precisely. Our warehouses are equipped with racks of different sizes and a pallet racking system. The conditions in which the works are stored also have to be taken into consideration, especially the temperature of the room and its degree of humidity. Works of art are very sensitive and sudden variations in temperature or humidity as well as vibrations have to be avoided at all costs. This is why our rooms are air-conditioned according to the norms applied in museums and their temperature and degree of humidity are permanently monitored. And finally, our staff are all professionals who have been trained by us and are experts in the meticulous handling of works of arts.”
What about the security of the works of art?
HP: “The warehouses are under a 24/24 and 7/7 supervision. The question of the security of the items is extensive and it includes protecting them from theft as well as monitoring the conditions of their storage. For instance, if there’s a problem with the air conditioning, an alarm will go off and we will be able to fix it immediately.”
How do you keep track of the works of art?
HP: “As we store hundreds and thousands works of art, inventory management plays a important part in our work. We have set up an innovative system using QR codes. This stock-management system allows us to have a real-time overview of the comings and goings and of the volumes used. It also enables us to keep our stock up to date. Physical inventories are also carried out on a punctual and annual basis. Furthermore, this system enables us to have an inventory of the works of art stored in-bond outside of the Ports Francs and to give a detailed status to the customs authorities.”
How are the works of art stored?
HP: “First of all, the work of art is packed in different types of wrapping, like for instance Tyvekâ, bubble pack or cardboard, before being placed in a wooden crate. The clients choose what packaging they want and we are able to pack the work of art according their precise requirements. Everything is custom-made.”
“What can be tricky is the unpacking of the object. It is essential to unpack it slowly, to have enough room and to take all the usual precautions when presenting the work of art to the client in one of our specially designed lounges. The members of staff handling the items all wear white gloves. Handling works of art requires patience, carefulness and great precision in terms of technical gestures. Our warehouse experts are used to handling valuable items and they carry out their work meticulously and with the utmost care.”
“A warehouse is constantly changing, as we have to adapt nearly every week to the comings and goings of the works of art and to their size. For instance, if we receive an item with a volume of 20 m3, we need to find the right place for it. The space available may sometimes be limited, especially before and after Art Genève. As official agent for the fair, we receive a great number of works that will have to be displayed on the different stands the week before the event.”
What are Harsch’s specificities?
HP: “Our long tradition in the moving and storage of works of art, our expertise and also the quality of our service. Our philosophy is to offer a custom-made service, we have a great ability to adapt, and we have experts devoted only to the works of art department.