Crate essentials: Bespoke artwork deserves bespoke protection

Crate essentials: Bespoke artwork deserves bespoke protection


Aug 1st, 2023

Written By 

Paul Beatson is the Senior Technical and Project Advisor at Crown Fine Art

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Ask a Conservator about the best way to approach art transportation or shipping an artwork and they will answer, ‘To not move it.’ Although risk is inherent in any art transportation, the duty of care is on professionals such as crown Fine Art to reduce that risk to the minimum; to understand all aspects of the movement, from the artwork materials to how those materials will respond to every step, jog and bump on its travels. 

This article highlights the importance of designing crates specific to the needs of your artwork.

1. Why custom crates

No two artworks are the same and this applies to their crates too. It is why a bespoke crate is tailored to fit an artwork's dimensions precisely, to ensure a secure (but not too tight) a fit: reducing vibration or impact shock, retaining the correct orientation if necessary and putting the relevant conservation materials in place where essential.

2. Material selection for custom crates

The hard woods selected for your crate must comply with international customs standards. Not only does this control the spread of pest contamination but increasingly is due to the importance of selecting approved and recognised sustainable materials from source.  Identifying which inert materials may be required is vital too as using the wrong conservation material on artworks can have the opposite effect to what you are hoping to achieve.  Plus, in a world where every centimetre of material needs to be questioned on its necessity, it is equally important to ask where it is not required.


3. Designing for artwork specifics

Unsurprisingly, those who are less familiar with providing information about their artwork may not have recorded or be able to supply everything that their chosen shipper needs. This often applies, equally, to those more experienced in the business of moving art. You must expect a responsible art shipping or art transportation company to ask multiples of questions around the artwork some of which may seem unnecessary but could identify an important fact like the differences in dimensions between frame size and artwork size. They may even ask to view the work prior to shipping and should be looking for overall dimensions of length, width AND depth as well as weight, to include e.g. the artwork frame if it is a two-dimensional artwork. They may ask to see the rear of a frame or know who the framer was to help them understand how to best hold the artwork correctly and in the right orientation whilst in transit.

4. Ensuring that everyone on the crate’s journey has a fair chance of correctly handling your work

An artwork’s journey is never as simple as A to B and it is always better to work with an experienced professional who understands every stage in between. The responsible art shipping or art transportation company will be assessing every aspect of your crate’s journey; considering everything from how realistic it is to get a crate into or out of a location; every key road and bridge or tunnel along the way; which size of vehicle is required to accommodate both the crate and the surroundings. They will have knowledge of aircraft holds and airport procedures, shipping routes and their pitfalls as well as their positives. They will have knowledge of customs requirements at every location and the risks of what can happen – even with the best made plans. The consummate professional will understand all this and build it into the design of the crate so that nobody at any stage of the journey is forced into a compromising situation where somebody in the middle of the route handles your crate incorrectly. And even where there are sections of a journey out-with your shipper’s control, their experience will have identified and accounted for this.

5. Bespoke artwork, bespoke protection; a specialised department for you.

When you think of all the aspects of logistics in art transportation, all the demands, necessities, pinch points, preferences and capabilities of the full end-to-end logistics chain it is little wonder that Crown Fine Art is split into different specialised departments. Crates for museums are bespoke designed by the knowledge which lies within our museum department, equally so for our Galleries Department, or within our Auction Houses or Collectors and Long Term Art Storage departments. Each analyses the distinct needs of our clients in the minutest of detail because everyone who works within these departments understands that no two artworks are ever truly the same and each matters specifically to its owner.

Crown Fine Art have been providing art shipping, art transportation, art storage and art installation since 1965. 
 If you're interested in finding out more about fine art protection, check out the best practise in choosing a responsible Fine Art Shipper!
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