Best Practices: Packing and Crating

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One of the biggest factors taken into consideration when purchasing art is how it will get to it’s final destination. Determining the best method for safely moving precious artworks from point A to B can be challenging, especially when choosing the best and most appropriate packing method for your item(s). The most common questions we get from clients is about best packing practices, so below we are sharing our general guidelines for packing shipments being sent within the continental U.S.


Packing fine art for safe transport via road freight (aka “fine art shuttle” or “FAS”) is generally determined based on whether a work is flat or three dimensional.

2D Objects:

Most common packing method: Soft packing, including poly, bubble and cardboard.

For added protection: Shadowbox, which is defined by the cardboard backing and raised collar around the edges of the work, is used for items with tacky or irregular surfaces that cannot have any materials touch the surface. If an artwork is still wet, most shipping partners will still transport the pieces wet by packing the artwork into a shadowbox.

For the most protection: Travel Frame (or Crate), If a piece has a very delicate or textured surface that cannot have anything touching it, and is large and/or heavy, a travel frame may be necessary in order to transport it safely.

3D Objects:

Most common packing method: Soft packing, including poly, bubble, blanket wrap, and custom cavity packed boxes can create safe barriers between objects.

For added protection: Crating, or other additional packing, is only necessary for particularly heavy or delicate materials, or for items that will ship to a location outside of the U.S. All international shipments booked with ARTA required a heated treated wood crate, per standard regulations.

closer look: items with unique materials or configurations

Ebony G. Patterson,  ...among the blades between the flowers...while the horse watches...for those who bear/bare witness , 2018, hand-cut jacquard woven photo tapestry with glitter, appliqués, beads, trim, brooches, feathered butterflies, fabric, silk flowers, and hand-embellished resin owl on shelf, on artist-designed fabric wallpaper, 130 x 175 in. (10.8 x 14.6 feet). Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

Ebony G. Patterson, ...among the blades between the flowers...while the horse watches...for those who bear/bare witness, 2018, hand-cut jacquard woven photo tapestry with glitter, appliqués, beads, trim, brooches, feathered butterflies, fabric, silk flowers, and hand-embellished resin owl on shelf, on artist-designed fabric wallpaper, 130 x 175 in. (10.8 x 14.6 feet). Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.

While the above outlines general guidelines for packing, our team’s years of experience allow us to easily recognize when works by particular artists require special packing requirements. For example, ARTA often ships works by artist Ebony G. Patterson via Monique Meloche Gallery. The artist’s large scale, mixed media works (left), can present certain shipping challenges. Patterson often uses objects such as costume jewelry, tapestry, crochet, beads, glitter, and silk flowers to signify beauty and wealth. These materials are important features of her work that add layers both figuratively and literally. The resulting irregular surface creates an interactive experience for the viewer, challenging one to look past the opulent surface and explore her deeper message.

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Protecting the surface of these works during transit requires more than standard soft packing. Our team has shipped numerous works by Patterson works on behalf of Monique Meloche Gallery, and in all instances we created a required travel frame (“T-frame”), and coordinated shipment via a high cube tractor trailer truck. A T-frame is a type of crate that allows the work to be handled without any part of the crate the surface or sides of the work by attaching the back of the work to the crate. Patterson’s works can range from 110-130 in. in height, yet most fine art shuttles have a maximum door height of 106”H. A high cube truck has a door height of 120”H, but it’s less common to find these in a FAS company’s fleet. Even with a high cube truck, an additional A-frame is sometimes required for the work fit in a truck. An A-frame safely allows the t-frame to ride at a lean, as it is constructed with skids on the bottom, to allow for a forklift or pallet jack, with plywood gussets in the shape of an “A” at the end of each side.

Packing and shipping may have their challenges, but with some guidance and a little foresight, making an artwork purchase doesn’t have to mean you’re left guessing “what next?”. With ARTA, safety will always be a top priority. ARTA offers the entire range of packing options, from poly-wrapped frames in commercial bins to museum-grade crating. You can choose specific packing needs in our online shipment form, or if you aren’t sure what type of packing your piece requires, our partners will assess and advise on the ideal packing to keep an artwork safe in transit.

Have any feedback on how we can improve the ARTA platform? We love hearing from you! Shoot us a note at feedback@shiparta.com or reach out via chat at shiparta.com.