The Armory Show 2016

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Perhaps the most publicized story, in 2006 business magnate Steve Wynn infamously elbowed his most beloved and iconic painting, Picasso's Le Rêve. The unfortunate mishaps took place while showing the painting to reporters. It cost $90,000 to repair the damage. So much for "off the records"!

To share a story from our own experience, one of our appraisers once witnessed a $15,000 chair get irreparably crushed between the doors of a freight elevator. 

In 2015, King Tut's chair was damaged in a move between museums as a result of pure carelessness. This unfortunate event followed news of botched restoration to the king's mask. Let's hope no one is haunted for the sub-par handling and treatment!

In 2004, Artnews shared the story of an employee at a SoHo gallery who enthusiastically unwrapping a poorly packaged work of art that had been shipped to them. To their utter dismay, he accidentally ripped up the drawing in his fervor.

Courtesy Soho

While traveling from Paris to The Armory Show last year, a Lucio Fontana sculpture was found damaged in its crate. Still pending is the legal retribution for damage that Lloyd's of London is seeking from the responsible art handling companies and airliner.

It is not uncommon for pets to damage a collector's favorite work of art. In one instance, a painting resting against a wall fell onto a dog. The spooked dog leaped and pranced about on the painting, resulting in several punctures through the canvas.
Courtesy HMV


Over the course of the next few weeks, thousands of works of art will be transported in and out of New York City during The Armory Show. It is a precarious task as the majority of damage occurs while a work of art is being moved. But with a few cautionary steps, most damage can be prevented. Atelier, a leading fine art storage company, shares a few tips to finding the right company to safeguard your artwork.

At Atelier, we have seen it all! Plastic stuck to the face of an important Andy Warhol screen print, a heavy marble sculpture packed in a scrap-wood crate with only hay acting as a cushion, a crate arriving with only duct tape holding the lid on. In all of these cases, the short-cuts were misguided efforts to save a little money. But conservation costs, insurance coordination, and re-tracing where things went wrong results in the loss of even more time and resources.

So how do you ensure the safe transportation of your artwork?  

Be Choosy & Ask about Services. When selecting an art services company to work with you and your collection, be sure to look for the following:
  • Dual Driver Transport in Air-Ride Climate Controlled Vehicle. This guarantees your precious cargo will not be left unattended in the vehicle, any literal bumps in the road will be mitigated by extra shock absorption, and the cargo will be kept at a consistent 68 degrees during transport.
  • Museum-Quality Packing. If a company offers to blanket wrap your painting, don’t hire them! Is it framed or unframed? Is the frame ornate? If your art services company is not asking you these questions, they should be.
  • Proper Labeling. Any reputable art services company will have their drivers equipped with supplies for the proper labeling of the artwork. Make sure labels indicate which side is up and marks each crate “fragile”.
  • Paperwork. Review the terms and information on the Bill of Lading, which is the legal document accompanying the shipment. It is not advisable to release any artwork to drivers without paperwork.
  • Will the Shipment be Brokered Out? Even art shippers sometimes broker out to other trusted sources. However, your primary contact should be totally up-front about the partner affiliate that is being used.
  • Understand your options for transport and delivery! Shuttle service consolidates the transport of other artworks and is cost effective, though may require a bit of flexibility with date and time of delivery. An exclusive-use vehicle, while pricey, can usually guarantee arrival or pick-up at a specific time and is often used by many museums. The Last On First Off (LOFO) Service is the best of both worlds. Your cargo is put on last and delivered first, as the name suggests, and is usually at a price point in between the shuttle and the exclusive-use rates.
  • Courier Service. Though rare for private collectors or galleries to request this service, Courier Service does offer an extra layer of protection during transit to ensure that the artwork is being handled properly.

Know What's Best When Shipping as Airfreight. For purchases requiring shipment by air, here are some additional tips to consider:
  • It pays to pay a little more. Request the shipment be handled by a licensed customs broker on a passenger flight.
  • Do your homework. Vet the art services companies on both ends of the shipment to ensure proper handling.
  • Avoid “Road Feeder Service” to and from the airport. These are usually single driver, non-air ride vehicles.

Last but Not Least: Are You Covered? The topic of insurance is a standard conversation, but not one often had.
  • Always clarify who is responsible for coverage during transit. When purchasing from a gallery, who covers the artwork during transit? Always ask and always get it in writing.
  • Understand what’s covered during transit. Under standard terms, artwork is covered for only $.60/pound for loss or damage.
  • Have an updated appraisal. If able to purchase fine arts coverage during transport, be sure your appraisal is up-to-date, as you will need to prove the value in the event of a mishap.
  • Know when you are covered. Inform your broker which company you are working with and be as accurate as possible with dates and service requested. If your existing fine arts policy is “wall-to-wall” or “nail-to-nail”, it should cover artwork during transport with a reputable company.
When you are booking any service with an art services company, they may be transporting the art, but YOU are in the driver’s seat. Feel empowered to ask questions and be as descriptive as possible regarding your project, timeline, and budget.

With information provided by Lynn Smith, Senior Director of Client Services and Derek Jones, Executive Director of Atelier. Atelier is a Philadelphia & Delaware based full-service fine art services and storage company with transportation services along the east coast. To inquire about services or storage please email:


Pall Mall Art Advisors has developed a first-class support and advisory service to ensure our clients' tangible assets are properly conserved, insured, shipped, installed or stored. 

Our services include the provision of inventories, catalogues, databases, provenance research, planning conservation programs, advice on disaster planning, the organization of loans to museums, consultation over security arrangements, help with making philanthropic provision, and many other aspects required to achieve the successful long term management of a collection.

Contact us at or 610.254.8400 to discover how we can assist you with managing your art collection.

Image Courtesy Sotheby's - Pending Permission


Anita Heriot

The Armory Show 2016, NYC, March 3-6
San Francisco, March 14-16
San Diego, March 17-18
London, Week of March 28

Colleen Boyle
Senior Vice President, US National Sales Director

Cincinnati, March 2-3
New York

Ruth Crnkovich
US Western Regional Director

New York, March 2-3
The Armory Show 2016, NYC, March 3-4
Chicago, March 5-8
San Diego, March 15-18

Kate Molets
US Southeast Regional Director

Charlotte, March 1-3
Bermuda, March 7-8
Pennsylvania, March 21-25
Charleston, March 30-April 1

Peter Ashby Howard
US Appraiser and Advisor
Palm Beach, March 17-18
Armory Show image courtesy of Roberto Chamorro for The Armory Show

Pall Mall Art Advisors
1150 First Avenue, Suite 150
King of Prussia
PA 19406