Best Practices: Packing and Crating

Transit options are the biggest factor taken into consideration when making artwork purchases. Determining your best option to move precious artworks from point A to B can be challenging, especially with the added confusion of choosing the best packing method for your item(s). Here at ARTA we are frequently asked questions about best packing practices, and have established the following general rules for shipments that occur within the continental U.S.

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Packing for Fine Art Shuttles can be easily determined based on object type:

2D Objects:

Most common: 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: 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.


Based on ARTA’s collective experience, we can recognize works by particular artists that require special attention to packing. Below is an example of an artist ARTA has coordinated shipping for on behalf of their representing gallery and regular ARTA user Monique Meloche Gallery.

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.

Large scale, mixed media works, which by now are hallmarks of artist Ebony G. Patterson’s craft, can present certain shipping challenges. She 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. ARTA has coordinated the shipment of numerous Ebony G. Patterson works on behalf of Monique Meloche Gallery and in all instances a t-frame was required, in addition to a high cube tractor trailer truck. A t-frame, or travel frame, is a type of crate that allows the work to be handled without anything touching the surface or sides of the work, by attaching the back of the work to the crate. Ebony Patterson’s works can range from 110-130 in. in height, and most fine art shuttles have a maximum door height of 106”H. A high cube truck has a door height of 120”H but are less common in a FAS company’s fleet. Even with a high cube truck, an A-frame is sometimes required to have the work fit in a truck, by safely allowing the t-frame to ride at a lean. An A-frame is another type of crate that 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 can offer 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 based on the transport method, 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.