The Complexities In Shipping Works Of Art Around The World

Sea freight is a vital part of many industries, with containers and heavy machinery shipping often a vital part of the industrial process.

Whilst much can be said about moving industrial equipment and even entire power plants via large container ships, one of the most fascinatingly complex industries that occasionally relies on the sea freight world is the shipping of works of art.

Much like heavy equipment, which often has bespoke transportation requirements, works of art can be transported in a wide range of different ways, depending on its value and the level of risk involved.

Art is generally considered to be static for this very reason, as there are several risks involved when passing a priceless work into the hands of anyone else.

One of the most notable and shocking examples of this was the destruction of a Lucian Freud painting by handlers working on behalf of the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, who accidentally confused it for an empty crate.

Outside of this, and a thankfully small number of even more shocking stories such as the firebomb in Dresden that destroyed The Stone Breakers in 1949, shipping art puts it in the hands of capable freight experts that will ensure it safely arrives at its destination and factors in its particular needs.

For smaller dealers and galleries working with more modern canvases, so long as the piece is securely contained, it can be containerised and carried in a standard container system, with a 2020 report recommending rail and sea freight where possible.

The complexities of art freight involve the handling of the artworks at both sides, which in some cases involves parts of the art industry themselves, who manage the process once it makes landfall.

As well as this, artworks can be made of odd materials, be of odd dimensions and may otherwise require specific packaging to keep them safe.

Finally, there are customs charges to consider when transporting cultural goods, including works of art.