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Protecting Your Personal Art Collection in Transit

Reduce the risk of damage

When you need to ship your artwork, the risk of loss or damage from handling is greatly increased. Fortunately, there are arrangements you can make in advance that help reduce that risk. The specific details will vary depending on what kind of items you’re shipping and where they’re going. The following best practices will help make any shipment more secure:

  • Designate a single point-person to oversee every step of the move.
  • Select an art shipping company that specializes in the kind of item you’re sending, and inquire about the firm’s loss history. If you’ll be shipping by air passenger cargo, choose a fine art packing company that is a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Certified Cargo Screening Facility to avoid having crates opened for screening.
  • Consult a conservator for packing recommendations specific to the type of piece you’re shipping, the method used and the length of the trip.
  • Obtain an itemized written estimate in advance of booking the shipment as well as a copy of the bill of lading.
  • Confirm the type of vehicles to be used. Trucks should be air-ride, climate-controlled and dual-driver. They should also have alarms and anti-theft GPS tracking devices to further ensure security.
  • For high-valued items, confirm the travel route in advance and confirm that a driver will stay with the truck at all times. To minimize handling and transit time for very fragile or extremely valuable items, consider arranging an exclusive service.
  • Prior to packing, prepare a condition report that includes photographs and descriptions of any existing damage for each item. If items are in perfect condition, this should be noted.
  • Review your insurance policy or consult with your insurance advisor to make sure transit coverage is included and that your limits are sufficient.
  • Confirm transit details for works on loan even if the gallery or museum is handling the arrangements. For added security and to minimize handling, request that your artwork is the last picked-up and the first off-loaded (“last on, first off”).
  • Account for potential climate changes between the starting point and destination and allow time for acclimatization if needed.
  • Confirm the suitability of the delivery location, taking into account truck, door and crate dimensions.
  • Confirm an expected time of delivery and request delivery notification from the receiving party.
  • Assign an individual to oversee the delivery and confirm acceptable condition. Provide him/her with unpacking and installation instructions.
  • Obtain an audit trail of shipping documents that demonstrate the full chain of custody.
  • Request a copy of the incoming condition report.

If you’re shipping internationally, there are a few more considerations you should make:

  • Choose a shipper that has specific expertise in both shipping artwork and international transit. Check all export documentation and customs clearance requirements prior to shipping.
  • Proper documentation is essential for preventing unnecessary opening of cargo.
  • Arrange for pre-clearance of customs so that the shipment is automatically cleared upon arrival.
  • Have all brokerage arrangements overseen by the designated point person.
  • Consider hiring a courier for high-value works.
  • Avoid shipping over a weekend or close to holidays in either country. Whenever possible, ship on direct flights during weekdays.
  • Consider purchasing optional services such as airport security and tarmac supervision.
  • Obtain a copy of the air waybill.
  • If temporary storage is required, arrange this ahead of time at a suitable facility.

Last updated Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

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