In this section you will find useful information about what to consider before dispatching works of art.

Transporting works of art often raises questions which seem ephemeral at first sight, but we nevertheless strongly recommend that you pay them due attention when planning transportations. This applies to the complexities of insuring a work of art, to the problems of orchestrating legitimate transportation for works of art in the face of protectionist Russian customs legislation and to a huge range of questions which it would take a great deal of time and space to list. So we shall pay attention only to the most basic:

  • . Know as accurately as possible the dimensions of the piece which you are planning to transport.

  • Know the location and size of the accommodation (the gallery/flat/exhibition-space), where the artworks will be exhibited. Know whether the premises have an elevator suitable for heavy loads or a broad staircase. It is important to work out in advance if the artwork will fit through the door of the premises. If a flat is the final destination, you need to ascertain beforehand whether the work can be easily carried into the apartment. On several occasions our clients have had to send pieces back to the galleries where they were purchased, for the sole reason that the dimensions of the room for which the artwork was intended were not taken into account initially.

  • It is important to take into account certain nuances of Russian legislation when shipping works of art out of Russia. In particular, the law regulates the import and export of artworks over 50 years-old rather strictly. Follow the link below to familiarize yourself with Russian law «The Cultural Property Export and Import Act».

  • One can hardly talk about importing art to Russia without discussing taxes and customs duties. In Russia, if the value of a piece of art exceeds a certain figure (which is specified by the law), then one is obliged to pay VAT, which is calculated on the basis of the declared value of the cargo. Under certain circumstances we are obliged to pay customs duty on top of the VAT.

  • Following the previous point, often arises the question of the size of the declared value. Should it be the insurance valuation, the purchase price, the replacement value (for instance, in the case of a mass-produced photo or print) or market value? We are often faced with these questions, especially if the artwork was purchased several years or decades ago and since then its price has increased or decreased, or if the artwork has been donated or inherited. Nevertheless there are several common ways of making an assessment and it would take hours to describe them.

If any of these questions interest you, the best thing to do is to get in touch with our team, who will address your inquiries either face to face or on the phone. We do our best to finish all our work on time and to this end we attempt to begin work with time to spare. However, bearing in mind the specific nature of art-world, we realize that often a lot is done at the last minute. This is due to both human and objective factors. Nevertheless, we always struggle to the bitter end to redeem the most hopeless of situations even if this means drawing on additional resources and working with all hands to the deck.

General recommendations


Customs clearance


Any goods crossing the Russian border must pass through customs. All works of art, whether exported or imported, are subject to an obligatory written declaration. Otherwise, the cargo counts as contraband. Moreover, the process of transporting works of art has its own idiosyncrasies.


First of all, they are peculiar insofar as the Ministry of Cultural Affairs is involved in the customs clearance. It is Ministry staff who decide whether or not you can export such and such a work of art from Russia. These staff not only control the export, but also the import of all manner of art and antiques into Russia and they are responsible for them being entered into government records. One of our company’s main activities is assisting clients in customs clearance of exported and imported art. In this section you can find detailed information about the import and export of works of art to and from the Russian Federation.




One should take into account that, in general, goods imported into the Russian Federation (including artworks) are liable to taxes, customs duties and payments.


 In our opinion this runs somewhat contrary to the national protectionist policy in relation to cultural property but… the law is the law. The main question in this case is what price to declare for artworks. We frequently encounter the difficulty that clients do not have definitive information about the value of their artworks. Generally, these artworks have been received as gifts, or inherited, or their prices may have changed since they were obtained. There is no one solution to these difficulties, therefore in order to resolve them we recommend you contact a member of our team, who will help you determine the value of the load and navigate the labyrinth of customs procedures.As well as these considerations, the import may be temporary or permanent.


The regime of temporary importation specifies the compulsory removal of imported goods in the same quantity and condition as that in which they were imported. Upon permanent importation the goods enter so-called "free-circulation". This means that in future the owner is free to do with them as he sees fit, whuch includes exhibiting them, expropriating them, selling or giving them away etc.




In order to export artworks abroad one of the organs of the Ministry of Culture must conclude that the artwork in question is not ‘cultural property’.


Some artworks are cultural heritage (regardless of their owner). There is a strict ban on exporting such artworks. Generally this limitation applies to artworks older than 50 or 100 years. Nevertheless, in order to export any artwork, even if it was made a year ago, it is necessary to obtain an official document or a certificate declaring your right to export it. Again, permanent exportation of artworks belonging to the ranks of cultural properties is prohibited. However, as far as organizing exhibitions abroad is concerned, when at the end of their expropriation all exported artworks will be returned to Russia, the law has a special procedure for obtaining documentation to allow this.Members of our team will provide you with an expert evaluation and help you obtain a certificate for the exportation of your cultural properties. This process usually takes several days but if the expert evaluation promises to be complicated it may take an even greater length of time.


We would like to draw attention to certain details of customs clearance for works of art.

Works of art can be imported and exported in the name of both individuals and of legal entities.

Circulation of documents in clearing goods for an individual is rather simpler than if it is for an organization. Here it may be possible to minimize the tax burden through competent customs declaration. Moreover, during the import and export of any artwork by individuals, whether citizens of the Russian Federation or otherwise, it is not necessary to provide document-based evidence of the purposes of import/export, nor to provide documents confirming the artworks’ ownership rights. However in several cases it is procedurally impossible to clear the import or export of goods for an individual. In particular, this concerns a large number of works of art, printed media materials, and temporarily exported and imported exhibition shipments. In the terms of the law, such activities may not be performed by individuals and ought to be carried out in the name of a private entrepreneur or company.


 During customs clearance of any export-import cargoes in the name of a legal entity, the volume of documentation in circulation increases significantly. A series of documents must be presented to confirm the presence of export-import arrangements, of ownership rights, of the organisation’s founding charter and of all manner of contracts. This clearance scheme requires somewhat more work, takes more time and demands a greater number of diverse arrangements. As a consequence the cost of customs clearance on behalf of a legal entity tends to be rather higher.


Cultural heritage or cultural goods?


From the viewpoint of Russian legislation, all works of art are divided into two types: cultural heritage and cultural goods.

The law does not give a clear definition for these categories and delegates this function to experts from the Russian Ministry of Culture - they determine the status of works of art. Not only does the procedure for customs clearance change depending on the assigned status, but so do the overall logistics. The question of transportation and clearance of all the diverse kinds of installation is worthy of particular attention. The term ‘installation’ is used widely in international art-practice, but as yet it is absent from Russian legislation. In light of this, it is frequently necessary to declare even the most famous western and Russian artists’ installations as popular goods, akin to electrical goods, exhibition equipment etc. Nevertheless, the exportation and importation of this category of art is not merely possible - we regularly arrange it.

Truck transport

Auto transport is the primary means of moving loads across Europe and has a string of idiosyncrasies. And, of course, it has its own pros and cons.


The main advantage of such transportation is the comparative reliability and safety. Once the packaged load has been placed in the vehicle it reaches its destination without being re-loaded into any other vehicle. This is very important, especially for fragile and bulky cargoes which ought not to be turned over. The only procedure that may require open box inspection or moving packed artworks is the customs inspection. However, the customs inspection, as a rule, is conducted in the presence of a special agent who ensures that the works are treated appropriately during the process of inspection and supervises the re-packaging afterwards.


A second considerable advantage is the possibility of transporting heavy and bulky cargoes, which often cannot travel by air. In particular this applies to three-dimensional sculptures and installations. 


The main disadvantage of this type of transportation is the delivery time. Usually it takes 7-10 working days. Our clients, especially experienced motorists, often wonder why it takes so long. The answer is quite simple: European legislation strictly stipulates the amount of time that an international driver can spend behind the wheel – typically not more than 9 hours a day. This is why a comparatively short journey of 3000-3500 km can take so long.


Another disadvantage is the obvious geographical impossibility of organizing auto-transportation to certain countries and regions, such as North and South America and regions of the Middle and Far East. It is also problematic reaching towns the routes to which pass through zones of political instability.


And there is one final factor which should be considered in planning art transportation. In the course of a single journey a vehicle crosses many borders and passes many customs posts; in theory it could be inspected at each of them. So this is another reason why the journey can sometimes take 2-3 days longer than planned.


Air cargo

Air transportation is the fastest way to deliver anything to another continent, but it also has certain aspects which should be taken into account.


On the one hand, air transport is the most universally suitable because it covers practically the whole world. On the other hand air transportation requires higher quality packing. From the moment the cargo is entrusted to the airline storehouse until it reaches its recipient, it is transferred over ten times, both manually and mechanically. In view of this it is highly undesirable to dispatch any cargo without solid wooden packing.


To the uninitiated it might seem that air transportation should take exactly the same length of time as it takes to fly from the point of departure to the final destination; however that is not always the case. Firstly, some flights have an irregular schedule and waiting for them to come around can take time. Furthermore in some countries, for instance in the USA, it is impossible to send a private cargo in the baggage hold of a passenger plane. U.S. legislation stipulates special measures of aviation security and so private cargo from unknown sources (i.e. not purchased from certified galleries or auction houses) has to be sent exclusively by cargo plane. Between Russia and U.S. there are very few direct cargo flights, so most of these goods fly with a stopover in Frankfurt or Amsterdam, which can take up to 10-14 days all told.


The size and weight of outbound cargo deserves special mention: with auto transportation there are not enormous constraints on dimensions, while with an aeroplane the first consideration is whether the packaged load will fit into the hold of the aircraft.

Thus, when choosing a mode of transport you should first of all carefully weigh up all the available information and options. This includes size, volume, the weight of products
and their packaging, fragility, and sensitivity to shaking and vibration. With our rich experience in the logistics of choosing a mode of transport, we are guided by two main criteria: cost effectiveness and the safety of the art.


Sea freight

Sea transportation is used relatively rarely in art-logistics. To that, there are several reasons:


  • Shipment by sea takes considerably longer than in a vehicle or aeroplane;

  • The cargo spends a long period of time in a shipping container, which, coupled with salty sea air, can lead to the work being damaged.

  • Sealing containers and isolating them from extremely humid conditions of the ocean is very labour-intensive and is undesirable because of the problem of condensation.


Nevertheless, this type of transportation is sometimes irreplaceable, for example in the delivery of bulky works of art from USA to Russia which do not fit on board an aircraft. Moreover (if the timeframe involved allows it) shipping large volumes is economically expedient and significantly cheaper per kilogram. On the other hand, for comparatively small volumes this kind of shipping is extremely inefficient.


Courier delivery

Some pieces of art require extra-careful handling. In such cases we can offer our customers a courier. This means that for the duration of the transportation, from the moment the load is dispatched by the sender until it arrives in the hands of the receiver, it is under the auspices of a single party. This service is indispensable, and we use it for graphics and paintings, books, crafts and jewellery. However, there are limitations on the dimensions and weight of the valuables being transported.

The benefits of using courier transport are obvious: it does not require voluminous and expensive wooden or metal containers and the cargo is in the same hands "from door to door". This method totally avoids all of the difficulties associated with damage to the works from inadequate care in customs warehouses - during transferrals and customs inspections. 

All our couriers are very experienced in the transportation and packaging of works of art, so we can be wholly confident about their security whilst in transit as well as during customs or other inspections. In addition, procedures for border and customs clearance of such goods take much less time and involve fewer complications when sent with a courier, than when sent with other modes of transportation.