Artworks on Loan – the Secrets of Shipping Priceless Art

Art travels more than ever. Get insights into the growing business, loan agreements, couriers, insurances and nerve-wracking unpacking in an article by the Guardian.

Andrew Dickson offers a detailed account of how masterpieces are moved between museums and galleries. With an increasing pressure to share collections across the globe, museums and other institutions spend years planning logistics for traveling art pieces and collections. Years are often spent on negotiating and planning before the visitor, often unknowing of the complex travel the art piece in front of them has made, can enjoy having a tête-à-tête with the piece.

One driver for the increase of traveling art is the fact that many museums now rely on blockbuster exhibitions to attract visitors. However, moving old art, as well as new, presents several challenges and to a guaranteed high price.

Loan lists and instructions get long and export license have to be procured. When an art piece has made its journey from museum a to museum b, usually accompanied by a trusted courier who never leaves its side, the piece has to acclimatise before being unpacked and a “condition check” can be made.

Blockbuster shows are becoming increasingly popular but the phenomena started in the 1960s already. A famous example being the Mona Lisa’s travel to the US back in 1963. In 1978, the New York Times architecture critic called in 1978 “the growth of the museum as circus, or spectacle, or cash register.

Security is always high and taken very seriously. Works usually travel by road with armed guards in Europe and one should not be surprised to see someone armed with a gun on top of the crate keeping the artwork safe.

>> If you want to learn more about the latest in art shipping and handling, visit EXPONATEC International Trade Fair for Museums, Conservation and Heritage in Cologne, Germany, from 20-22 November 2019.

>> Read the full Guardian article