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Shipping Fine Art Safely

Source: Flickr | Hartwig HKD

Shipping fine art can be a tricky old business, but it needn’t be a headache with a little forward planning and the right people on side. So there’s no need to store, sell or donate your beloved artwork if you’re making a move abroad – check out your options below.

Packing materials

Some packing materials are totally safe to come into contact with works of art, while others should be kept well away. White linen and soft cotton fabrics are two smart choices for padding and packaging paintings, as are non-abrasive ropes and ties - as long as they are not dyed.

Certain plastic materials are also fine to use, but others – like bubble wrap - can be affected by temperature or humidity changes on a long journey. If bubble wrap is used to wrap stained wood and then transported in a humid and hot environment it can adhere to and damage wood finishes. Bubble wrap can, however, be used over a primary layer of fabric when shipping framed paintings so that the wrap never touches the artwork itself.

The experts

Depending on the value and provenance of your fine art piece (or entire collection) it might be wise to consult an art handler for advice on how best to transport your artwork safely. Art handlers are often used by museums and galleries to oversee global collection transportation, and they have very specific experience in moving, transporting and shipping items of fine art and sculpture all over the world. An art handler will know the best way to package your precious goods to reduce any risk of shipping damage.

Source: Flickr | W H

An alternative option is to use a specialist art shipping agent with access to climate controlled vehicles, secure storage units and dedicated movers with the experience to handle and package your valuables professionally. Otherwise, you can always ship your fine art or antiques along with your other household goods, by sea container or air freight. Do pay close attention to the packing tips below if you decide to ship your fine art this way, and seek professional advice for specific items.

Insurance

If you plan to ship your fine art by sea container or air freight as part of a larger domestic consignment, check your freight handler’s insurance provisions and take out additional fine art insurance if necessary. Items of lower value can often be insured as part of your overall shipping fee.

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General packing tips

If you’re taking the responsibility yourself for packaging your fine art pieces before shipping them overseas, consider the following:

  • Note down details of (and photograph) all scratches, blemishes and other pre-existing quirks on each piece you’re shipping. Also take a few pictures of each item to show where there is not any existing damage in case you do need to make an insurance claim.
  • Clean and dust your fine art items before packing, and remove protruding hanging hooks if possible.
  • Label every piece clearly and carefully if your agent isn’t doing this for you already.

Unframed paintings

Source: Flickr | János Csongor Kerekes
  • Fold four bits of acid-free tissue paper into triangles with one side left open, and place the triangles onto the four corners of the piece.
  • Taping only onto the paper corners, mount onto sturdy cardboard.
  • Place two layers of cardboard over both sides of the piece, and tape together.
  • Using two pieces of corrugated cardboard, place the piece in the middle and tape up all sides.

Framed paintings

Source: Flickr | one2c900d
  • Find a box to fit the piece with three inches available all around.
  • Wrap with acid-free tissue paper.
  • Wrap in bubble wrap, paying particular attention to corners.
  • Place a layer of foam inside the box to rest the frame on.
  • Pack all space around the piece with packing material to minimise shifting within the box.

Sculptures

Source: Flickr | casey atchley
  • Wrap bubble wrap around the upper half of the sculpture twice. Secure with tape.
  • Wrap bubble wrap around the bottom half of the sculpture, overlapping in the middle. Fix in place it with tape along the side and middle.
  • Fill your box with shredded paper to about a thirds of the way full. Make a well in the middle and put the sculpture down in the middle before filling the box with more shredded paper. Aim for minimal movement within the box
  • Tape the box shut

Good luck and bon voyage from the Move Hub team!