What collectors need to know about shipping works of art

Most works of art are static. Therefore, when art is moved – either within a gallery or collection, or between sites – the level of the risk is skyrocketing. There are dozens of famous examples of works of art lost, stolen or damaged in transit, from ‘s Children with a cart (1779), which was stolen in 2006 near Scranton, Pa., on his way to the Guggenheim in New York; at incendiary bombs of ‘s Stone breakers (1849) in 1945 as he was moved out of Dresden, Germany; at accidental destruction of‘s Untitled Oil Painting (1960s) in 2000 by Sotheby’s handlers who mistook his box for an empty box.
Yet statistically most works of art, according to insurance figures, experience smaller and more frequent cases of low-intensity damage during transport, which is approximately 60% of claims for damage to works of art. Therefore, a professional – and sometimes secret—A network of expedition experts has emerged to provide services to galleries, institutions and collectors. Moving art can be risky, but it’s also a vital part of the ecosystem of the art world, allowing us to access work outside of our own localities. Because art market participants range from individual collectors, art dealers and private galleries to high net worth collectors and massive institutional buyers, the world of art shipping has become equally diverse: one can ship art through the postal system or under Armed Guard.

“It’s understandable that shipping networks (and businesses) have grown and specialized over time,” said Jonathan TD Neil, associate professor of art and arts management at the Drucker School of Management, Claremont Graduate University. Neil divides the art transportation market into “shipping” and “handling” and points out the different players involved in the process: “There are certain companies that will be used for international shipping because they understand better tax regimes and national companies. “Manipulation” is a different story, and still functions as a guild with junior apprentices and senior managers running the show with the big shippers and institutions. Further down the ladder, this is truly a free game, with artists (and art students) providing management services to galleries and to each other, as they are the ones who deal with artistic creation in its own right. heart.

Shipping works of art has always been a relatively decentralized industry, often led by players from other areas of the art market. Recently, there have been attempts to highlight ethical practice efforts in shipping works of art. ARTA, a fine arts logistics and technology company, released a report in 2020 on emissions related to the art transport industry. The report suggests that collectors monitor their carbon footprint through a simple equation that can estimate carbon dioxide emissions and also opt for sea and rail freight over air transport when possible. (Full Disclosure: Artsy Shipping is powered by ARTA.)

Collectors should also be aware of working practices in the art shipments market. Neil stressed that efforts should be made to increase wages and opt for professional services in what has always been a precarious labor market. “[The nature of art shipment] keeps costs low for the capital-strapped sectors of the art world, but it’s not good for artists or other casual workers who do this essential work, ”he said. “At some point, training, certification, and professional associations (if not unionization) will help strengthen the arts workforce and wages.”

From a practical standpoint, there are a number of factors that collectors should consider when looking for the right art shipping service: from the value of their artwork and its dimensions, to distance. to go, whether or not it is traveling abroad.

Meredith Blechman, Marketing and Partnerships Manager at ARTA, noted some of the main categories to consider when looking to ship art. “The material, size and weight of a work of art play a critical role in determining the optimal packaging and transportation method,” she said. “For example, you can’t just wrap a sculpture in a flexible envelope, they tend to be heavy and / or fragile and require specific packaging. A print may be suitable for flexible packaging for transportation, but if it is traveling overseas or by ocean freight, it will require additional packaging to ensure it is not damaged.

Blechman went on to explain that the different items found in a coin can affect a collector’s choice of expedition. “Depending on the size, value, weight and fragility of the item, it is certainly possible to ship artwork through a common courier service like FedEx. The key is to ensure proper packaging when shipping with these carriers, ”she explained. “That being said, works of art that are extremely heavy, oversized, fragile, or a number of other variables may preclude the ability to ship by regular mail or cause us to advise against shipping by any method other than shipping. ‘works of art.” The shipping services provided by Artsy through ARTA take these variables into account to calculate shipping quotes and offer the safest and most appropriate packaging and transportation options for a given work of art.

Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Atelier 4, a New York-based fine arts logistics company, offered a rule of thumb to help collectors determine which shipping method will work best. Generally, collectors can choose services that meet two of the following three options: good, fast, and inexpensive. “If you have something of incredible value or fragility, you choose ‘good’ and ‘fast’,” he said. “It means a specialist in fine arts logistics…[and] air-conditioned trucks, warehouses, proper packaging and proper equipment.

Schwartz continued, “When the value starts to drop and the challenges of handling get easier, you can go ‘good’ and ‘cheap’. It’s less specialized, but still [involves] good packaging and handling by professionals.… If replacement value is not a concern, [opt for] “Fast” and “cheap”: [organize] parcel delivery and track it online. Indeed, Neil summed up the diversity of shipping options at both ends of the spectrum: “At the high end it’s all about security (risk management) and at the low end it’s all about efficiency (cost control).

One overlooked aspect of shipping artwork is the complex area of ​​insurance. Many home and institutional insurance policies do not cover artwork in transit. “Insurance policies have exclusions for transporting artwork or covering artwork when not in the home,” said Blechman. “While a buyer relies on their own policy to mitigate risk while transporting an artwork, it is important to understand if an artwork is covered and under what circumstances. Schwartz suggested that one should “consult an insurance agent who has experience with tangible assets, like art, and advise you on the type of coverage you should have.” … If you are loaning to a museum or gallery, make sure you have a loan form and that it covers you in accordance with the language of your own policy or better.

Ultimately, how a collector chooses to ship art is defined by multiple competing factors. The increasing professionalization, specialization and digitization of the art shipping industry means that today more than ever, the perfect balance between risk and efficiency can be found.

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