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SHIPPING ART AROUND THE WORLD

Art is often delicate in nature, so the thought of shipping it any distance is a hair-raising one. Fortunately, there are experts who specialize in getting even the most valuable works from point A to point B–unscathed.

Seeing a painting or print on a gallery wall is one thing. Getting that artwork to your front door? That’s something else entirely. The steps required to (safely!) deliver a unique work of art are considerable and require expertise, preparation and no shortage of logistical brilliance. To explain just what goes into shipping art from a gallery to you, we spoke with internationally recognized fine art shipper Dietl.

What happens when a request to deliver a work of art is submitted?

First things first. When a shipment is requested, all of the information for both the site of collection and delivery are supplied and confirmed. Any special delivery instructions are likewise reviewed along with as much detail about the pickup and drop-off location as possible–knowing whether the piece needs to be maneuvered up and down stairs, or whether the job requires multiple movers to handle it is critical.

How is art packed for transport?

Artworks are predominantly packed one of two ways: using a “strong box” or using a wood crate. The aptly named “strong boxes” are rugged cardboard units reinforced to withstand impact, and they provide far more protection than their common cousins (the “regular” cardboard box). If an artwork is oversized, especially delicate or traveling internationally, a crate may be the most secure way to ship it, in which case the work is sent to Dietl’s warehouse where a unique crate is made specifically for that piece.

So it’s as simple as putting an artwork into a box or crate?

Not quite. Even if generally considered “flat,” many artworks have texture resulting from layers of paint or additional materials fixed to the surface. To ensure none of this is disturbed, an additional frame is often built to create the necessary space between the face of the artwork and its housing.

OK, so an artwork is all packed. What modes of transportation are used to get it from Point A to Point B?

If an artwork is traveling within the continental United States, art shuttles are a solid option. However, a small- to medium-sized artwork that isn’t delicate can usually be shipped by a common carrier (like Fedex), though transit insurance is encouraged because, well, Murphy’s law.

Dedicated art shuttles allow artwork to be handled from start to finish by specialty art handlers. They are more expensive than a larger carrier and can take up to three weeks for delivery, but art shuttles allow for more delicate packing and handling as they exclusively transport fine art.

Of course, if an artwork is traveling overseas, Dietl will book it on a flight and make all the other necessary arrangements.

What challenges come with shipping art to other countries?

Learning as much as possible about the delivery location is key, even more so when it’s international. Because countries have varying laws restricting certain materials–like shells, feathers or exotic animal skins–everything needs to be accounted for before a piece is scheduled for shipment. Large organizations like UNESCO can also be a consideration if an artwork has specific cultural significance.

OK, so a work of art travels by ground or makes it through customs and arrives at its destination. How does the artwork finally get to its new home?

The process is almost complete! If the work is traveling via Fedex, for example, the delivery window is typically fairly wide. If traveling via a special art shuttle, agents will make contact in advance to settle on a delivery window that works for the new owner. Once a time is coordinated, the shuttle arrives and drops off the awaited artwork. From there, the work is ready for installation and on its way to becoming part of its new home.