Fine art shipping: tips to help protect your investment


Shipping art requires special skills. Sculptures add a level of complexity to the process due to their odd sizes, shapes and weights. Depending on what the sculpture is made of, it can be very fragile and break easily. In order to ship sculptures properly, care must be taken in the packaging and crating to ensure that your sculpture arrives unharmed at its destination.

Start With a Plan

Look at your sculpture and identify the parts that are most fragile and likely to break. Figure out the total weight of the piece, as well as the “box” dimensions. Determine if the material of the sculpture is sensitive to any particular environmental conditions like heat, moisture or salt water.

Gather up Packing Materials

The next step is to acquire the packing materials that you need. The size of the sculpture will determine if you will need to have a crate constructed.

For smaller pieces, cardboard might be acceptable. Keep in mind that the level of protection afforded by cardboard is not the best.  Get some packing material for reinforcing fragile spots like bubble wrap or foam. You will want to obtain packing material for the inside of the crate.

Packing Your Sculpture

Take care to reinforce any particularly fragile spots with material like bubble wrap or foam. If there are detachable or separate pieces to the sculpture, make sure to wrap each of those items individually. If you can disassemble the sculpture, it might be the easiest to ensure its safe arrival.  Use packing tape to secure your wrapping in place, but remember not to attach any tape to the surface of the sculpture as it might cause damage.

Once you have packed up the fragile spots, you will want to prepare the rest of the sculpture for shipping. Fill the bottom of your crate with soft foam packing peanuts or other cushioning material. Make sure to keep a layer approximate two to three inches deep. Place the sculpture upright into the crate or box, and then reinforce the box with a layer of packing material between two and three inches on each side.

If you are shipping a large sculpture or statute, you might want to consider a crate with bracing. These crates can be custom built by a crating company that specializes in shipping art or braced items. The braces will need to be on the inside of the crate and will secure the sculpture in place during shipping. Don’t think the braces are a substitute for padding. A braced statue will still need a layer of packing material to keep it safe between the crate walls and the sculpture.

Keep in mind you never want a crate or box that is small enough for your sculpture to touch the side. Consider gluing padding to the sides of the crate or box for additional reinforcement.

Ship Your Sculpture

Now that you are all packed up, pick a carrier that specializes in shipping fine art or fragile items. Your carrier should be able to determine the best method (land, sea or air) to get your sculpture safely to its destination.

Cratex Group offers fine art packing services and international shipping services. Call us for an estimate next time you need to ship something special.