Shipping Internationally – Things to Consider
In the Spring 2013 issue of Groutline, Shug Jones wrote about shipping artwork internationally. “There’s much more to this story, so visit the SAMA website for a checklist of things to consider,” she said. Here it is!
Timing – Schedule your shipment to arrive on the first day of receiving to allow for any delays in transit (and there WILL be delays).
Size – Think small. The larger the piece, the higher the value, all of which adds up to more expense.
For Sale or On Loan – If your piece is for sale, a VAT (Value Added Tax) will be levied on the shipment. To avoid being charged VAT, I chose to tell the gallery to consider mine on loan and not for sale.
Proforma Invoice –This is a packing list issued by you with a detailed description of each item, the year it was created, its net weight, and value. A matching proforma invoice is included in the ATA Carnet.
Declaration – Issue a declaration in which you underwrite all the mosaics and other items related to the ATA Carnet #…….Dated……., have been made by you in the U.S., and that all works are contemporary art. State that the goods will be sent to …..(country) for ……(exhibit) during month/year and; after the show they will be returned to the US during month/year.
Passport Copy – A copy of YOUR passport should be attached to the above declaration.
Copy of Acceptance Letter – Include a copy of the letter/email sent to you upon your acceptance into the exhibit to which you are shipping.
Limited Delivery Window – Be prepared for delays and problems if there is a limited delivery window, for example, the venue receiving your work is open on a certain day only and/or at certain times. Also, location can be a problem, as in venues that are located in a “no drive area” where vehicles are not allowed to drive up to the venue to deliver the shipment.
USPS – While the US Postal Service might be just the ticket to ship your work across the US to its new owner, it is NOT the way to ship your work overseas. First of all, they do not provide return shipping labels for prepaid shipments. Secondly, the postal services receiving the packages are not set up to deal with the customs situations encountered in temporary imports. Even though the outbound trip might cost less than using an international shipper, you can pay dearly in customs fees or VAT.
Valuation – While many undervalue their work for purposes of avoiding high customs fees (one artist was surprised with a $1170 VAT and no way to recoup it) and insurance charges, this can turn against you if your work is damaged in transit. A couple of our artists had their work damaged, one piece not repairable. Since it was undervalued, the shippers would only pay the value stated on the insurance and required that the piece be turned over to them upon payment. Because the piece was sentimental and the artist didn’t want to part with it, especially for the lower value, she chose to keep the damaged work in her personal collection.
Multiple package shipments – Make copies of everything you have and attach to all boxes. This includes a copy of your Carnet with a note that the original is attached to box #1. Number each box as Box 1 of 3, Box 2 of 3, etc.
Canada to US – Even shipping within continental North America can be a hassle. Sophie Drouin, the Canadian artist, has spent thousands of dollars shipping to the US and back to Canada without a Carnet because she was not aware that it was available in her country. Her worst experience was when shipping five pieces to an exhibit in California. She was charged import duties going and coming!
Wording – Whenever possible, consider avoiding using the words “mosaics” or “art” when describing the contents; substitute the term “tile work sample” instead.
Packing – Julie Richey advises us to build from the inside out when designing our artwork. She says, “Start your 3-D pieces with a welded steel armature that you design to be bolted to a crate or pallet, THEN design the mosaic around the shipping requirements.” Don’t just depend on expensive professional packers and shippers.
For 2-D work, ensure that there is 4” to 5” of shock absorbing material around all sides of the mosaic – top, bottom, and edges. Don’t use packing peanuts or loose materials that can shift during shipment. Polystyrene foam and insulation foam that can be bought in thick sheets and cut to form a cradle for the piece are great for this. This also makes for easy repacking by the exhibiting venue and less likelihood of damage on the return trip.
Crates – While you can use regular wood to build a shipping crate for use in the US, they will not be accepted by European customs agents. Instead, the crate must be made of pressure-treated, certified insect-free wood. That means that you will probably need to have one custom built for you by a crating company.
Disallow materials – Some countries do not allow certain materials to be imported into their countries. Did you know that you can’t ship anything made of wood to Australia? So don’t plan on creating your mosaic on a wooden substrate or on shipping it in a wooden crate if it will be traveling there. You would do well to investigate restrictions on imports in the country you intent to send your work to.
Documentation – Take photos of your packing procedure at every step. This will help to protect you in case of damage during shipping. I even attached to the front of the shipping package a photo step-by-step of how to unpack my mosaic with instructions to the gallery to reverse the process for repacking at the conclusion of the exhibit.
Keep copies of all paperwork sent with the shipment, including copies of all correspondence between you and the gallery and shippers. You can’t document enough.
Delays – Customs delays can occur at any time for any reason in any country. One of our artists’ mosaic took a “3-week customs vacation” before finally being released for delivery to the gallery. Others have experienced no delays and anywhere in between.
Reimbursement for shipping expenses – Many times galleries will provide a sum for reimbursement of shipping expenses to artists whose work must be shipped a long distance to the exhibition. This might be full reimbursement or a set amount to help cover expenses. Inquire with the person in charge of the exhibit whether reimbursement is being offered for shipping.
Bulk or group shipping – While none of us have done this, Carol Shelkin had a gallery owner in NY tell her that a group of works being shipped back to the US from an overseas exhibit could be packed together in one shipment (in their individual boxes with shipping labels attached) to a single location in the U.S. They could then be separated and shipped on to their final destinations from there.