Friday, January 27, 2017

Shipping Artwork

One of the worst things I had to do as a gallery and competition director was make phone calls to artists telling them their painting had arrived, but had been damaged during shipping. In most cases the damage was light to moderate damage to frames, but there were a few instances where the artwork itself was unsalvageable. So what works to protect your paintings but doesn't cost a small fortune?

First of all, realize that no matter how many "Fragile" or "Do Not Crush" labels you put on the box, it WILL be thrown around, crushed and shaken by illiterate gorillas during it's journey. Punctures are not uncommon and frequently cause irreparable damage. Shipping companies do offer insurance (at extra cost of course), but getting them to pay more than $500 can be problematic. Your best bet (and mandatory as far as insurance claims go) is to make sure the art has at least 2 inches of protection all the way around it.

There are special art shipping boxes available. Uline and Airfloat Systems are two sources I have purchased these from. These are sturdy cardboard boxes with available hard plastic puncture shields. Inside the boxes are dense egg-crate type foam that is scored, so you can easily remove just enough to fit your framed artwork in. These are expensive, starting at about $50 for a small box, but can be used numerous times. I would recommend putting your painting in a plastic bag before inserting in the box in case the box gets wet.

Just in the last couple of years, FedEx has started selling art shipping boxes that are much less expensive - around $20. These boxes use shrink-wrap type plastic to hold your painting securely in place on a center piece of board that "floats" the artwork in the center of the box. It's very light weight. There's no foam inside, but I've not seen a painting that has sustained damage when shipped in one (which is pretty remarkable). I use these most of the time myself now. I should note that I have not tried shipping glazed work in them, just framed paintings on canvas and panels.

If neither of those options is attractive, you can build your own box using 2" rigid pink foam insulation, duct tape and cardboard. You can use this kind of box numerous times as well. Directions for the way I make them are below. I've had good luck with these even with glazed work. Again, I would recommend wrapping the painting in a plastic bag before putting it in the box to protect from any water damage if the box gets wet.

All three of these options will also please the recipients of your shipment. They are easy to unpack and repack. Some exhibit prospectus' even designate that if you don't use these kinds of shippers, an extra unpacking fee is charged or the shipment may even be returned. Packing peanuts and/or lots of plastic and tape are universally detested and frankly, they don't work very well either.

It's hard sending our work off into the big, bad world of shipping, but if its adequately protected, chances are good that it will survive it's journey.

Have a great weekend and remember to Live Out Loud!


  1. Thank you for this Terry. Very helpful.
    Moira Donohoe

  2. Love this and very timely in my case. Thank you

  3. Yep, I got the Uline Artwork Shipper box but still feel apprehensive about sending it. The plastic bag is a great point to keeping it dry. I know how careless some of these drivers can be and hope the insurance will make them think twice. Thanks for the timely advice.

  4. Excellent!! I've never shipped in the past. I've always hand delivered. This bit of advice will come in handy if the need arises in the future. Thanks for sharing Terry.

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