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Packing Fine Art for Shipment

In Fine Art, Fine Art Care & Maintenance, Fine Art Packing & Shipping, Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Packing fine art for shipment depends on the specific art materials being shipped.  Here are a few recommendations that can help you to properly pack your fine art object for safe and secure shipment.

Always clean the art object before wrapping and packing. Also be sure to check for any damage or blemishes. Your client is expecting new, undamaged work in pristine condition.

Glass is the most vulnerable to breakage damage and should be double wrapped in bubble wrap, set in foam peanuts inside an inner box, and double boxed (inner box inside an outer box) with foam peanuts surrounding the inner box.  Use strong, corrugated cardboard for both boxes.  Secure the inner box with clear packing tape (non-reinforced tape is OK for the inner box).  Secure the outer box for shipping with strong, reinforced packing tape.  Continuously tape all joints and add perpendicular tape across the joints that are able to be opened. Lastly, place reinforcing tape in an “X” pattern across the center of the joint on each of the two sides of the box that are able to be opened.

Be sure to mark or label the package as “FRAGILE – HANDLE WITH CARE” to alert the handlers during the shipping process.  If recycling a shipping box, be sure to remove all labels, and cover all imprints, from the previous shipping.  If the package has an “UP” side that matters, mark it so (such as “THIS SIDE UP”).  If there is an intended sequence of opening the package for the recipient to follow, mark it as well (such as “OPEN THIS SIDE FIRST”).  If normal tools for opening the package put the contents at risk of damage, mark as the box so (such as “OPEN WITHOUT CUTTING OR PUNCTURING”).

If there are multiple parts to the art object, wrap each part separately to avoid contact during shipping. Use the foam peanuts (or other protective packing materials) to make positive pressure within the shipping container, to maintain separation between the multiple packages, and to prevent shifting of contents.

Protect the finished surface of paintings from any contact with packing materials.  Do not wrap them in bubble wrap or immerse them in foam peanuts.  Shipping conditions may be very hot, and packing materials can wind up sticking to the painting and leaving imprints after removal.  Position and secure the painting(s) in the shipping container with corrugated cardboard face protection and corners protection.  Use polyethylene film protection if moisture is a concern.  Any tape used to affix the cardboard or film protection to the painting must only contact the back side of the painting – not the front or edges, especially painted edges for frameless display.  Tapes can leave adhesive behind after removal.  Worse yet, they can remove some of the artist’s paint when lifted from the surface.  When placing more than one painting in a shipping container, put the paintings back to back, or protected face to protected face.  Be sure that no hanging hardware comes in contact with an adjacent painting’s face.  For shock resistance for the package contents, if the art work is unsecured in a corrugated carboard box for shipment, use bubble wrap and/or foam peanuts around the painting after face and edge protection is in place.  If using a wood crate, with wood shelves, braces, grooves and/or notches to secure the painting in place, bubble wrap and foam peanuts are not needed.

Heavy pieces, like stone and bronze, are boxed in a wood crate or else you risk failure of a corrugated cardboard shipping container. Design the crate to hold the art object(s) firmly in place, with wood bracing or expanded foam, allowing no shifting of the crate contents and no contact between multiple parts or works within the crate. Assemble and secure the crate for shipping with wood screws.

Blunt any sharp ended object with a piece of foam to avoid the sharp end puncturing the packaging. Any tape used in the wrapping of art objects must only affix to the packing material, never to the art object itself, to avoid any adhesive coming in contact with the surface of the art object.

Be sure to include written instructions for the art work assembly (if required) and installation. If the art work requires special hanging or mounting hardware, include such hardware  in the shipment. If the art work requires special care for maintenance, such instructions should also be included.  It is also a nice gesture to include the artist’s information (bio, statement, marketing brochure, or whatever else is available) for the purchaser to learn more about the artist whose work is in the shipment.

Include a notice with instructions of what the recipient should do if the art work arrives damaged to keep the insurance coverage in force for a damage claim. This includes actions to take (such as photographing the damage to the work as well as to the shipping container) and persons or business entities to contact. Also important is a time limit for the claim. One shipper that we use has a sixty day time limit for the shipper to make the claim, so the recipient needs to make the claim to the shipper within ten days of receipt to allow for the shipper to receive the returned object from the recipient, send it out to the artist for a repair quote, receive the repair quote and prepare and submit the claim.

Shippers need to know the size (3 dimensions in inches) and weight of the package.  They also need to know the value if you are going to insure it and the zip code of its destination to quote you a shipping price.  Shop several shippers… you may be surprised at the differences in prices.

If all of this seems daunting to you, remember that there are commercial shippers who also are professionals at packing what they ship.  For a price, they can do it all for you –  pick up, pack and ship the art work, insured if you like.