Transport of Artworks and the Art of Transport. A Guide to the Safe Transportation of Works of Art

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“Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”– so goes the well-known saying. This is neither the time nor the place to engage in philosophical debates about the subjectivity or objectivity of beauty, or its universality. After all, as another famous Latin maxim goes, “there’s no accounting for taste”. However, one cannot admire (or critique) works of art if they are damaged during transport.

Objectively speaking, ensuring the safe transport of paintings or sculptures is a task that artists, museums, auction houses, and art galleries dealing in the sale or loan of artwork to other entities must take care of.

Every cargo that is being transported requires the highest quality of handling to ensure it does not get damaged during loading, transport, and unloading. This is obvious to every logistics service provider. However, artworks are a special case that requires even more care for the entrusted cargo. This is because they are items of great value, often priceless, unique, and fragile, sometimes being several decades or even centuries old. Therefore, their transport requires even greater accuracy and caution.

If you are an artist wishing to send your works to a gallery at the other end of the country, a representative of an auction house sending paintings to new owners abroad, or a museum curator preparing part of the collection for loan to another museum, we present you with a short guide. It includes the most important issues to remember when preparing artworks for road transport.

Remember, these are only general guidelines, and each of the topics discussed requires further detailed analysis.

Transport of Artworks. Preparation for Transport


Preparing paintings for transport should start with dusting using a soft, non-lint cloth. Delicate paintings should be covered with a layer of varnish to additionally protect them. If the painting is framed, wrap it in bubble wrap, making sure the bubble side is facing out and that the wrap does not directly touch the canvas. Special attention should be paid to protecting the edges and corners. The prepared painting is then placed in a special transport crate.

For unframed paintings, place them between two sheets of stiff cardboard, larger than the canvas itself, creating a protective “sandwich”. Lay a layer of gauze on the canvas to absorb moisture that could damage the painting. Then, secure the edges of the cardboard with tape, wrap everything in bubble wrap with the bubbles facing out, and place it in a transport crate. For artworks framed in glass, such as posters or prints, it is recommended to apply two strips of tape on the glass, forming an X shape, to protect the artifact in case the glass breaks.


Sculptures should be protected using bubble wrap, polyurethane foam, or styrofoam to avoid direct contact with hard surfaces. Before securing the sculpture, remove dust from it to reduce the risk of scratching delicate surfaces. If the sculpture can be disassembled into smaller parts, do so, preparing several smaller shipments.

The secured sculpture is placed in a special wooden transport crate, ensuring stability. Empty spaces between the crate and the sculpture can be filled with styrofoam peanuts, although they should not be used for transporting paintings.

Before packing the artwork for transport, it is necessary to prepare photographic documentation of the artifact and the shipment. This serves as proof of the condition of the work before shipping, in case of damage during transport.

The shipment should also be properly marked (e.g., “This side up”, “Fragile”, “Handle with care”).

Transport of Artworks. Choosing a right Logistics Service Provider

If you are not handling the transport of artworks yourself, it will be necessary to choose a logistics service provider who will take over this process. It is crucial that the provider offers insurance coverage for the full value of the artwork, including its historical, emotional, and financial value. The insurance should also protect against all risks associated with transport, including damage or theft.

If the artwork is to be sent abroad, it is necessary to choose a logistics partner with experience in customs clearance.

The chosen partner should have a delivery vehicle adapted to the size and type of artworks being transported, equipped with cargo stabilization systems. The cargo space must be clean, dry, and free from sharp edges. For very valuable or delicate artworks, it may be necessary to use a specialized vehicle with temperature control and real-time cargo space monitoring.

Route planning is equally important;it is advisable to avoid areas with high crime levels or traffic difficulties, as well as roads with damaged surfaces that could cause damage to the transported artworks.

Transporting artworks requires special attention and care due to their value and unique character. When choosing a logistics partner to handle the transport of sculptures, paintings, or other artworks, ensure that they offer adequate cargo protection, insurance, have experience in customs clearance, and possess delivery vehicles appropriately adapted for this purpose.

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