Something else to consider when talking about safe handling of artwork is transportation options. The transportation services most commonly used to transport works of art are road or air transit. Air transport is the most common, efficient and safe means of moving art over long distances, domestically or internationally. Choices include parcel services, such as those offered by the United States Postal Service, United Parcel Service (UPS), DHL, Federal Express (FedEx), and other private companies or commercial air freight carriers.
Many artists and institutions use these services regularly, without any complaint. Service is economical, convenient and prompt. However, restrictions on size, weight and insurance place limitations on artists that may not be suited to their art. Insurance in particular, is the gray area in which most problems occur.1 Paying close attention to declared value and limits of liability sections in FedEx and UPS Service Guides are a good protective practice.
According to FedEx, “shipments (packages or freight) containing all or part of the following items are limited to a maximum declared value of $500:
- Artwork, including any work created or developed by the application of skill, taste or creative talent for sale, display or collection. This includes, but is not limited to, items (and their parts) such as paintings, drawings, vases, tapestries, limited-edition prints, fine art, statuary, sculpture, collectors’ items, customized or personalized musical instruments.
- Film, photographic images, including photographic negatives, photographic chromes and photographic slides.
- Any commodity that by its inherent nature is particularly susceptible to damage, or the market value of which is particularly variable or difficult to ascertain. “
According to UPS, articles of “unusual value” are prohibited from being offered for shipment. This definition explicitly includes “works of art.”
We recommend shipping via FedEx and make sure that the value of your artwork is declared at the time of the shipment. If you are shipping something worth over $500, you should ask your insurance company about purchasing additional insurance since FedEx doesn’t offer insurance.
For further information, contact your local UPS or FedEx office.
1Snyder, Jill. 2001, 1990, 1996.
Caring for Your Art. 145-146, 148-149.