How to Avoid Artwork Shipping Disasters

Artsy Specialist
Jan 16, 2018 4:27PM

You may have heard stories about artwork shipping disasters—sculptures getting lost in the mail or precious packages being left in the rain. When having an artwork shipped, you can avoid the most common mishaps by following our specialist recommendations below.

Disaster 1: Your artwork is delivered to the wrong address


Just like any other shipment, you can use the tracking number to monitor your artwork in transit and estimate its arrival time. (If the gallery or auction house is coordinating shipping, you might want to ask them to share the tracking number with you in advance.) Though it happens rarely, you’ll be glad to have this information if your artwork shipment is delayed or headed to the wrong address.

Some art shippers are small operations—and do not provide tracking numbers. In these cases, you might want to ask for the shipper’s contact information, such as its company name, phone number, and e-mail address.

Disaster 2: Your artwork gets damaged in transit

Artsy Tip: Invest in insurance

It is standard practice to buy insurance when shipping artworks or any other high-value item—and the costs will vary depending on the artwork’s worth, weight, and size. The gallery or auction house will often include insurance while coordinating shipping, but it is always a good idea to double check that this step is completed.

Insurance is an added, but necessary expense—and ensures that you will be reimbursed if something were to happen while your artwork is in transit.

Disaster 3: Your artwork gets left in the rain

Artsy Tip: Choose signature-required shipping

You can also ask the gallery to choose a delivery option that is “signature-required” to make sure that the artwork arrives in safe hands. When a package is not designated as signature-required, it can be left on your doorstep when no one is around—and could end up getting damaged by rainy weather.

You can also ship the artwork directly to your office or a doorman building—whatever is most convenient for you.

Disaster 4: Shipping costs are more expensive than the artwork

Artsy Tip: Hold off on framing

Framed artworks—especially those behind glass—will be more expensive to ship, as they often need to be placed in a heavy wooden crate to prevent damages.

For prints and other works on paper, you can consider this less expensive option. It’s often possible for the gallery to ship the artwork without the frame, but send it directly to a framer near you. This way, the gallery or auction house can skip the heavy crating and mail the artwork rolled in a tube—and you can pick up the piece fully framed.

To save costs, a gallery might also be able to include your work in a shipment for an upcoming art fair or exhibition in your area. When transporting art overseas, it can be worth waiting a little longer for your artwork to lower shipping fees.

When buying art, shipping is not the place to cut corners—it is worth investing in extra precautions to ensure that your artwork arrives in one piece. Galleries and auction houses are experts in shipping their artworks from point A to point B. So if you have any questions about shipping costs or logistics, you can always refer to the seller for guidance.

Artsy Specialist