Sending artwork abroad

Earlier this year I was trying to find out the estimate of sending works of art from New York to Russia using a professional art shipping company. The prices were mind blowing – around $1000/painting! I certainly can’t afford to use these services at this point of my art career.

So when I had to decide how to send my watercolor work to Milan, Italy, for the show “Russia from the past to the future”, the US postal service seemed to be a much better option. It was affordable. I spent only $67 (where insurance for the package was only $6.70) for postage in weight of 10 lb 3.6 oz.
Note: US postal service can send only the work that is no more then 108″ following this formula:
(Height + depth)x 2 + width = <108
so as my package was 30″/5″/36″
if to put it in the formula:
(30 + 5)x2 + 36 = 106 … I just made it exactly.

The problem was that even though I shipped it more than a month in advance, the package has still not been delivered to the gallery, six weeks later. This means that I am missing the show. Keep in mind that, the I still have to pay to have the artwork sent back with a service that will probably much more expensive than the USPS.

My work spent 20 days in America before it was sent over the ocean by plane. And now it is waiting at customs in Italy (over two weeks). I suspect that my problem was just one little word, “artwork”, that I wrote on the form under postage content section. I don’t think lying would be my choice, but nonetheless this is not helping.  I don’t think the customs makes a distinction between art to be exhibited versus art to be sold.

A possible solution was recommended to me from an experienced artist friend: he prefers to transport his works for shows in Europe personally. He says that when you do it this way the total cost of the trip is still much cheaper then using a professional art shipping company. Think of it this way, it is like you are getting a free ticket to Europe for yourself while delivering your works. It gets that crazy! Lucky for my friend his works could be easily rolled into a roll and taken on the plane. He then frames them locally himself or with a help of a gallery who is organizing the show.

During transportation you may be asked a few questions regarding your art, eg, what are they, whose are they, what are their value.  My friends advice is to keep all the information simple and clear, prove that the art is yours, and explain that you are traveling with your portfolio to show friends and/or colleagues. He also suggested to not volunteer any information about exhibitions, as if customs believe you the artwork is coming into the country for commercial purposes, they may give you problems.

If you have any experiences of your own, negative or positive, please do not hesitate to leave a comment to this post. All your suggestion will be useful!
Good luck transporting your art all over this planet.

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