Sending a painting or a sculpture: all about sending artwork

Are you a gallery owner, painter or independent sculptor and wish to send art objects? 

Upela explains how to ship your paintings, sculptures or design objects in the best possible conditions. 

How to ship art ? 

Artwork shipping : the formalities 

First of all, in order to ship your artwork, whether it is a painting, a sculpture or anything else, you will need to complete some administrative formalities. The first step is at least the creation of a complete and detailed commercial invoice for your shipment.

There are several scenarios you can face when shipping an artwork, here are the two most common possibilities when shipping:

  • You are sending a work for an exhibition 
  • You are shipping a work for sale 

Send a piece of art for a gallery exhibition 

If you are shipping a work of art that is to be exhibited, and not for sale, then you will not have a commercial invoice. However, you will still have to make a declaration to the customs authorities, in which case a proforma invoice will be sufficient. 

When issuing your pro forma invoice, remember to give as much detail as possible and to mention the value of your work of art on the market, so that the customs services can calculate the customs duties more easily. Here is a non-exhaustive list of elements to be included on your pro forma invoice:  

  • the mention "proforma
  • the identification of the supplier 
  • the name of the prospect or client (in this case, the name of the art gallery must be mentioned)
  • the date of issue of the document 
  • the details of the goods or services
  • the quantities
  • the prices without taxes
  • the VAT
  • delivery times
  • possible deductions
  • the validity of the offer
  • the particular conditions
  • name of the author and date of creation
  • the incoterm (delivery conditions: mode, payment, collection, insurance etc...)
  • nature of the packaging: if your work is packaged in a wooden box, you will have to declare the nature of this wood

Send artwork for purchase

If you are shipping a work of art for sale, then a commercial invoice must be included with your shipment. The required information on the commercial invoice is as follows: 

  • Names and addresses of seller and buyer
  • Date of issue of commercial invoice
  • Invoice number
  • List and description of goods
  • Quantity of goods
  • Unit value of the exported goods
  • Total value of exported goods
  • Currency and terms of payment
  • Means of transport and delivery terms in accordance with the applicable Incoterm

Whether you are shipping artwork for sale or for exhibition, we strongly encourage you to consult the customs regulations of the destination country. Also be sure to indicate the materials used on your artwork, as they may be restricted or even banned in some territories and may be returned to the sender

Some examples: 

  • You used wood: some woods are not allowed (even for packaging) 
  • You used human blood on a canvas 
  • There are bullets from firearms on your work 
  • It is a naturalized / stuffed animal 

These are very specific cases, but be sure to declare the nature of the materials used, especially if they are very specific.

Shipping artwork : packaging

First and foremost, packaging is the responsibility of the sender, so it is important to ensure that the package has been properly packed and protected for shipment.

Packing a sculpture 

  • We strongly recommend the use of wooden boxes, very rigid with a thickness of 2 inches to 4 inches. 
  • Stabilize the work inside the box, be careful, use cushioning materials that can absorb shocks, we do not recommend the use of paper, because it may sag during transport and the sculpture may move inside the box and thus damage it. To cushion your sculpture effectively, you can use the following materials:
    • tissue paper or bullkraft paper (for primary packaging)
    • foam box

Packing a canvas 

Like the crates, the fabrics can be packed in rigid crates: 

  • foam lined cases 
  • case foam upholstery 
  • case with foam insert 

You can also buffer with chemically neutral materials:  

  • simple stamping: with tissue paper, crystal paper, melinex or polyester-based compounds
  • double buffering: this is a slightly thicker and reinforced packaging with materials such as bullpack, bullkraft and bulkamousse
  • reinforced buffering: there is obviously the wooden case, aluminum and plastic compounds

When sending canvas, please make sure that it is completely dry to ensure that it does not get damaged in transit

For the packaging of art objects, there are professionals specialized in the packaging of artworks who have a real know-how on these types of needs and who will be able to make you custom boxes or stamps. 

We also recommend that you take pictures of the packaging steps so that you can prove in case of a problem that it was suitable for the risk.

Finally, it is imperative to measure your parcel once it is packed, and to declare the measurements of your work once it is packed in order to avoid any re-billing from the carrier. 

Send a painting or a sculpture : insurance

For art shipments, insurance is not mandatory but highly recommended. You can either use your own insurance, or if you want to ship with Upela, we offer an insurance that covers art shipments up to 10 000€

Sending a painting or a sculpture: which carriers to choose

At Upela we have a great expertise in shipping artworks and benefit from a wide range of offers for the transport of paintings and other works of art, so you can ship with the carrier of your choice except UPS, which does not accept wooden crates due to customs constraints.

Start shipping


To ship your collectibles we recommend our offers with the following carriers :


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