Traveling with artwork is not easy (especially when traveling on a budget) but if you are looking to expand the horizons of your art pieces, here are a few tips:
1. Work small and light
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Paint small, or make your artwork divide into several smaller components that you can fit in a suitcase. This makes traveling very simple.
For example, when I took my work to an exhibition in Cuba, I brought a piece that expanded to about 40″ x 60″ which was made up of separate sections sewn onto a cloth that I could fold. (The whole thing fit into an express mail box!)
That was a good experience, but I also have a bad one:
Last month I traveled to Prague with 12 paintings on canvas, on their wood supports. I got fancy and bought the expensive ones, which means they were HEAVY and difficult to carry around. Choose lightweight wood supports and your trip will be much easier!
2. Avoid using extra-large suitcases
Oversize suitcases are very expensive to check into the airplane (not to mention cumbersome).
Also keep in mind that outside of the US people usually don’t have super-sized cars, and taxis are tiny. I made this mistake once when I took 11 pieces (which were about 18″ x 24″) to Puerto Rico. Luckily we were able to travel by van, because otherwise I don’t know how I would have managed with those large suitcases.
3. Don’t pack your art in cardboard boxes
Airlines usually don’t allow cardboard boxes for international travel. I did this once, with those same 18″ x 24″ frames, and almost lost my flight and opportunity to exhibit.
One thing you can do, however, is cover the box with a cloth bag. Then it becomes a suitcase! I sent 3 paintings this way to another exhibition in Dominican Republic and it worked.
4. Work flat
The flatter your artwork is, the better. Flat artwork means you might be able to fit everything into a single portfolio, and that’s really ideal!
In 2010, my friend Raquel and I took our work on the road, so I bought folding easels (for quick and simple displays) and made several paintings on flat canvas boards. It was such a great system that I didn’t even pay for overweight or extra luggage on those flights.
5. Check the airline’s rules for traveling with art
I didn’t think of this until last month, when I was trying to figure out the best way to take 12 paintings (which were 1.5″ thick) to Prague.
In the end, we checked the suitcases and took the paintings as carry-ons because the airline specified that you are not to check artwork, and if you do, you have to sign a release form.
I wrapped the paintings with interleaf paper and placed them face to face (2 paintings + 2 paintings + 2 paintings) in a plastic bag, then in a large Costco bag.
The two 6-canvas bundles each fit perfectly in the overhead bin.
6. Create a packing checklist
It’s very important that you know exactly what you need, before you fly!
I forgot to pack tape for Prague, and wrapping the paintings in the interleaf papers for the flight back was not fun. They kept unwrapping themselves.
Good luck and much success in your future art travels!