How To: Shipping and Handling

By Ashley Knowles

For the experienced or budding collector, the practising artist and museum or gallery professional, there will come a day when artwork needs to be shipped over international or local waters. The Mixed Media team has touched on the issue of conservation of works on paper and paintings in the past. A brief portion was dedicated to the shipping and handling of artwork, however, being a complicated topic, today’s post will explore the different methods of preparing, packaging and transporting art.

Curatorial assistant and videographer Jackson Petit-Homme preparing piece for packaging.


One of the first issues to address when preparing artwork to be shipped is whether the individual wishes for the piece to be returned. If this is the intention, the shipper should resume responsibility for this and provide materials for the artwork to be sent back. To make this process easier and more cost efficient, preparing the piece with reusable materials is best. These include, but are not limited to, bubble wrap, shrink-wrap, acid free paper, acid free cardboard, plastic and wood. The shipper should also include instructions as to the proper re-packaging of the piece.

Stan Burnside’s Solomon, wrapped and ready to move to Government House on Friday!


How artwork is packaged depends on the type of piece it is. For new pieces made with paint that can withstand curling, it is sufficient to roll the artwork into a plastic, tube. It is best to place the paintings on layers of acid-free paper, and then roll the artwork into the tube. The paper provides support and protection from the elements. Unframed works on paper should be placed in acid-free boxes, and layered with acid-free paper.

Framed pieces require a bit more handiwork and creativity. Procuring a large cardboard, plastic or metal box is the first step. Shippers are encouraged to line the box with a waterproof substance such as plastic or wood. Secondly, the painting’s frame is taken into consideration. Is it large? Thick? Will the painting itself need extra support? If so, individuals are encouraged to purchase foam cut to the size of the painting. Once cut, the foam is intended to fit perfectly on the back of the painting, between the framed portions. The next step is to wrap the entire piece in foam or bubble wrap and place this into the box. The key to safe transportation is ensuring that the artwork does not have the space to move or slide around.

Curatorial assistant Jackson Petit-Homme and curatorial trainee Averia Wright handle package to be transported to Government House.


Choosing a shipping provider can be a difficult one, however, the shipper needs to feel completely comfortable with the service they choose. Cost and shipping time are crucial decisions to be made and can drastically alter the cost. Air transport is typically more expensive, as well as rush delivery. However, these are some of the safest options as they cut down on human interaction and mistakes. Sea transport is acceptable and tends to be cheaper, though it takes longer. It is not encouraged to send works on paper via boat, as the continued exposure to humidity, water and fluctuating temperatures can severely damage the art. Ultimately, the shipper needs to feel comfortable with whatever service they choose. Sometimes, looking for reviews and recommendations are good starting points.

For more information and enquiries on shipping art, advice or tips, feel free to contact the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas at 358-5800/1.