man checking back of artwork

Purchasing artwork is an exciting process for collectors. But how do you safely get that investment from the gallery or auction house to your home? Knowing the proper requirements and potential situations that could result in damage can help you choose the right mover and methods for shipping.

Preparing to move artwork

Once you've made an art purchase, document the condition of the piece. Take photos and videos, and ask the gallery or auction house to provide a statement of condition. In the event of damage as a result of moving, it's important to have this information. Make note of any scratches, damage or rust on frames, and other visible blemishes.

Reach out to professionals who are skilled in working with valuable art. These professionals can not only move your artwork, but they can also aid in proper installation to ensure your artwork is protected once it's in your home. They may also be able to advise you on mounting, framing and other design elements. Find out if they can move your artwork in a climate-controlled vehicle. Consult an art conservator to review the plan or answer any questions on the materials the movers are planning to use.

Check with your insurance agent to make sure that the piece is properly insured.1 Ask the dealer or museum if they can provide the necessary documentation to establish value and help with any appraisals.

Moving artwork

Work with the dealer to find a reputable mover experienced in moving fine art.2 There are precautions that need to be taken that are better left to an experienced professional.

Request that your piece is cleaned properly according to its medium before being packaged for moving. Be sure to ask about the cleaning process used so you can make sure that harsh chemicals that could cause damage are not used. The gallery, auction house or art conservator can advise you about whether this is even necessary.

Use an experienced shipping service that specializes in moving fine art, if possible.2 You can request that the weather dictates moving day. To avoid issues with moisture, ask that your piece not be moved unless the humidity is low. Add this stipulation into your moving contract. Padding should be added where necessary, and all hardware should be removed to limit contact with sharp objects.2 Artwork should be shipped in its correct orientation. Shifting a piece on its side may result in permanent damage, such as a stretched canvas or components of a sculpture that no longer fit together.3 Ask about all materials the moving company uses to make sure nothing that could leave damage or residue is used.

If your piece requires air shipment, request that packaging includes crating. This ensures the piece can sit upright, protected from other heavy items, and off the ground or floor.4 It's important that the piece is secure in the crate to avoid movement, and the mover may wrap the piece in a cushioning material before crating it.4 Once your piece arrives, arrange an unboxing, and inspection with your mover. Have the company installing the piece on hand to supervise the unboxing and have the area for display prepped and ready. If your artwork requires placement on a wall, consider hiring professional art installers to assist with the display location to minimize potential damage from UV rays or other sources. Once you unbox the piece, carefully inspect it, comparing it to the photos and documentation you recorded before that show the condition prior to shipment.

[1] "How to Insure Your Art Collection the Right Way," (accessed Nov. 1, 2020).
[2] "Do’s & Don’ts of Packing Art & Collectibles," Lucie Voves, (March 20, 2017).
[3] "Moving? Take Care When Transporting Works of Art," Daniel Grant, (updated Jan. 25, 2012).
[4] "How to Package Your Artwork," (accessed Oct. 29, 2020).
This insurance overview is for informational purposes only and does not replace or modify the definitions and information contained in individual insurance policies, their endorsements or their declarations pages, which are controlling. Terms and availability vary by state, and exclusions apply. Products are underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and affiliated companies, including Crestbrook Insurance, Columbus, Ohio. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle and Nationwide Private Client are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.