Shipping Art and Antiques

The newest edition of Chubb Collector came out about a week ago with two good articles.  One on selling art at auction, which I will not post as most appraisers are aware of the basics on what is covered, but click HERE to review the beginners guide as it may be useful as a handout for clients who are contemplating selling at auction.

The other article, posted below is on shipping art and antiques, as well as information on storage. The article describes and states what to ask about both facility storage and actually shipping.  It covers items from a facility report, fire detection and prevention, single use building, where is the art stored (basement, ground floor which is not considered good) to shipping with info on a trained staff, ground vs air and tracking.

The article also touches on lending art.  Overall a very good and useful items and procedures both appraisers and art advisors should be familiar with when working with our clients.

Chubb Collector reports
On any given day there are hundreds of thousands of works of art, antiques, and artifacts from private collections that are not on display. Whether this is your first time sending your art away, or you are a seasoned collector whose artwork has been around the world, arrangements for storage, shipping and loan agreements should be addressed ahead of time to make sure the collection is safe, and that the responsibilities of the people involved are clearly defined.

Storage: Works of fine and decorative art end up in storage because there is not enough space to display them; because they need temporary housing while you’re moving or having renovations done; because you’ve bought a piece that is too big to fit in the intended location, and so on. Options for storage during these times range from self-storage mini units suitable for general goods, to full-service fine art facilities. Each comes at a different price point, with its own set of pros and cons. For art collections, it is highly advisable to choose an experienced fine art storage facility.

Fine art storage companies should provide you with a detailed Facility Report outlining building construction, use, protection and maintenance. All photos courtesy Crozier Fine Art.

When inquiring about their services, be sure to check the following:

1. Facility Report?

The company should provide you with a detailed Facility Report that gives information about the building in which your works of art will be held. The facility report should tell you:

whether the facility has fire detection and suppression and security systems (CCTV, access controls, alarms, motion detectors, etc.) that are certified to at least UL Extent 2 (Extent 1 is the highest level of protection, Extent 4 is the lowest) and monitored by a central station.

if any art is stored at ground-level or basement-level (If the answer is yes, consider looking elsewhere!)

if the building is “single use” (the sole function is art storage) or “mixed use” (other activities take place in the building). For example, you would NOT want your art stored in a facility with a welding business on the premises.

what temperature and humidity the works will be kept at (the standard for fine art is 70 / 50% RH, but some works benefit from specialized environments).

how they maintain and monitor temperature and humidity. For example, do they have an engineer on staff that constantly monitors and maintains the equipment?

If the facility report does not address these issues, the company should be willing and able to answer any questions you may have.

2. Employee Background Checks?

You wouldn’t want somebody with a questionable background or inadequate experience looking after your collection. Pre-employment screening should be a pre-requisite for any art professional; it makes sure your art is being cared for by responsible people with appropriate experience.

3. Preparedness and Emergency Response Plans?

Super Storm Sandy proved the need to have plans in place that are practiced, practical and effective. Some facilities took weeks to recover, whereas others were back to business in a matter of hours. A disaster might involve natural disasters, civil unrest, etc., and may not always be hurricane-strength, so the plans should cover everything from a leaky pipe to a full-scale natural disaster.

4. Trained Staff?

Art collections present a wide range of challenges and vulnerabilities. Your storage company should be able to confirm that the staff that will be shipping, storing, wrapping or installing your art is trained, and provide evidence of such training.

5. Computerized Inventory Control?

A detailed inventory system helps prevent items from being lost or mysteriously disappearing, and provides a level of overall accountability. If you don’t know where an item is stored, how would you know if it’s missing?


Art is most vulnerable when in transit, whether that is moving a piece across town or shipping it to the other side of the globe. There are a number of options in the spectrum of shipping: from common carriers like FedEx, UPS and household movers (less advisable), to companies that specialize in fine art (usually the best way to go). When selecting a company, here are just a few questions to consider:

1. Point of Contact?

You should be assigned a point person who is available to answer questions, gather important information about the shipment, and provide a detailed estimate and plan of action ahead of the project.

2. Trained Staff?

Again, your shipper should confirm that the staff is trained to handle art. This is one of the downsides to using common carriers—in most circumstances, they are NOT trained art handlers.

3. Packing and Tracking?

It is the responsibility of the shipper to know the best methods and materials to prepare your collection for shipment. There are a wide range of options, from simple wooden boxes to museum-quality crates. Ask what their packing plan is and why they are recommending this method.

When in transit, GPS tracking should be standard for all fine art shipments.

4. Ground vs. Air?

Fine art trucks should be climate controlled, air-ride equipped, with security key and alarm systems in place. These trucks should be operated by drivers and art handlers who have been trained in proper packing, handling, loading and off-loading techniques.

When it comes to shipping by air, only a handful of fine art shippers are Certified Cargo Screening Facilities, a TSA certification that allows the company to inspect and seal crates prior to air shipment. Those who do not have this certification must outsource to a 3rd party company, so find out who that CCSF is, and if their staff is trained to handle art (not all are!)

5. Third party work?

Sometimes it is necessary to hire a third-party carrier during a shipment. You have the right to know who these people are, what their credentials are, and what their liability is for their portion of the service.

Loan Agreements

These documents are essential in outlining the specifications and responsibilities of the Lender (you) and Borrower when a work of art is going on loan. Fuzzy language, vague details and/or missing information in the Loan Agreement can lead to major headaches and stress later on, especially if something doesn’t go as planned.

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

Just as if you were putting your collection into your own storage, you want to obtain a facility report from the borrowing party which details all relevant facts about the space in which the loaned artwork is going to be displayed or stored. This facility report will act as an informational addendum to your Loan Agreement.

The Loan Agreement should be very specific in terms of the space in which the loaned artwork is going to displayed: temperature, RH, lighting, natural light (UV), electronic and manned security, visitor access and controls, and the environment prior to unpacking and after packing are just a few things that will need to be contractually defined and agreed upon.

The Borrower should provide “nail to nail” insurance with a reputable insurance company acceptable to the lender, with you, the Lender, shown as an additional insured and loss payee.

In the Loan Agreement you should require that a neutral, experienced art professional prepare a comprehensive condition report prior to shipping to the borrowing party, and then again immediately upon its return. This will identify any damage or change in condition that may have happened while the art was on loan.

Have the Borrower agree that no work will be done on or to the loaned art without your prior written agreement. For example, should the art need a new frame or perhaps need to be cleaned prior to exhibition, no activity would take place until you have been made aware and approved of the plan.

As the Lender, you should be able to designate your regular preferred fine art storage and shipping company to handle all transport arrangements. All costs and associated charges, including condition reports and supervision, would need to be accepted by the Borrower.

Clearly establish controls over intellectual property rights: copyright, catalog, media coverage, photography, etc.

Lastly, have the loan agreement reviewed by both an attorney and an insurance broker specializing in art. Make no assumptions that the document you are given is complete or appropriate until it has been thoroughly reviewed!

With all of the above, keep in mind that each work of art is unique and will require individual attention and advance planning from all parties involved. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for guidance.
Source: Chubb Collector

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Thank you for this information!