Shipping art for a show / by Jeannine Cook

For every artist who is having a show, there comes the moment of having to deal with packing and shipping the artwork. If luck is with one, the museum will pick up the work and arrange all the logistics - a delight. But more often than not, things are not so easy.

Bubble paper - with thinner and thinner bubbles that pop more easily, it seems, these days - is a first priority for me, and then come the choices. If there are just one or two framed pieces of art, my first choice is always for the padded, hard-sided cardboard reusable cartons from Air Float. I have owned their cartons, in various sizes, for years and years, and the boxes could have their own frequent mileage accounts. By protecting the art by nesting the pieces in dense foam, and by having non-pierce sides, the art travels safely.

The choices then become more difficult. I used to scurry around to find sturdy cardboard boxes, more bubble paper and lots of strong tape. Now, I find that it is extremely difficult, in coastal Georgia, to find the right-sized boxes, so I opt for UPS and their versions of packing cartons. I know that all art venues absolutely hate styrofoam peanuts - so do I - but when it comes to packing up a large number of pieces of art, it gets complicated to make them padded, safe and tightly packed without those little bits of styrofoam. So ... pace, galleries... However, all these exercises in shipping art are not cheap these days, when insurance, drop charges, extra fees and the like get gently added, and added, and added some more....

The total costs of shipping art, over and above fees to enter juried shows, must be having a considerable impact on exhibitions these days. Shipping multiple pieces of art for a solo exhibition, or one with another artist, is indeed costly, but at least there is not the initial jury fee, hanging fee or any of those additional costs. In this economy, most artists must be very carefully considering how many shows they want to enter competitively and how far afield they may want potentially to ship artwork.

In a time when we all are extremely conscious of our global connections, it seems ironic that shipping art is becoming so very expensive and complicated. Ah well!