Alamy The Landscape Room, Holkham Hall, Norfolk, England, UK
How-Tos Luxury Real Estate

Handle with Care: How to Relocate Art During a Property Move

The safe transfer of priceless art and antiques from one location to another can be an art form in itself—one that needs expert guidance and decades of experience

Moving house can create a myriad of stresses, from scheduling issues to insurance considerations. So what do you need to know before you move your precious art collection from one property to another? We asked an expert in the art of high-value art and antiques relocation to explain why ‘extra bubble wrap’ just won’t cut it.

“That surge of excitement and anticipation and of feeling immensely privileged never wanes. It’s as intense today as it was the first time I did it.”

Ross Giles, head of private client services at Gander & White, is not talking about free diving or waterfall rafting or any other adrenalin-spiking sport, but about his job: overseeing the safe transfer of priceless art, instruments, tapestries, and artifacts from one location to another, often thousands of miles away.

Gander & White relocation
One of the premier shipping and installation companies in the world, Gander & White provides relocation services to art dealers, private collections, and museums all over the world. Banner image: Alamy

Clients include private individuals, museums, galleries, auction houses—including Christie’s—and members of the British royal family. The firm manages projects of all sizes, all around the world, from shipping single artworks to conducting entire household relocations. Other companies that offer a similar service, and are also approved by Christie’s, include Brooklyn-based Primary Art Services, as well as Dietl International, and fine art shipper Atelier 4, which has locations across the United States.

Gander & White was founded in London in 1933 and now has offices across the US and also in France. In the 18 years that Giles has worked for the company, he has organized the shipment of Old Masters and contemporary masterpieces, fragile tapestries, an 800kg (1,763lb) steel sculpture by Bernar Venet, a 64-arm, three-tier chandelier by Paolo Venini, and artworks by some of the greatest painters who have ever lived.

Each shipment presents its own set of challenges. Contemporary art installations can be enormously friable and difficult to move, particularly if they have lots of moving parts. Huge sculptures are sometimes too heavy to be carried in an elevator, whereas large canvases don’t always fit through the doors of new homes. But, says Giles, the firm’s experts always find a solution. “We’ve taken out windows and doors, used cranes, and even lifted over roofs—we’ve done everything but taken the roof off to get a piece of art in or out of a house.”

Gander & White relocation
Gander & White has achieved an unmatched reputation for its specialized door-to-door white-glove service: high-end household and estate relocations that put clients' minds at ease.

His own personal career highlights, however, come from learning that a collection includes works by his favorite artists. “I am passionate about Turner and the Impressionists. They were masters of light and brushstroke, and you can’t fully appreciate their genius when their work is hanging in a gallery. When you have them in your hands, there’s an incredible intimacy and connection. You see so much more and can study them close up, viewing them as the artists would have done. It’s such a privilege to be able to do that. Many of the artworks we handle are culturally important – among the most significant paintings in the world—so some evenings I will go home and think, ‘My goodness, today I handled a piece of history’.”

We’ve done everything but taken the roof off to get a piece of art in or out of a house—Ross Giles, Gander & White

Gander & White will transport anything, no matter how old, fragile, or valuable, with the exception of cars, jewelry, and fine wine. The company can offer a door-to-door, white-glove service, which means that a member of the team will manage the whole process, from taking down and disassembling at one end, to the installation at the other, accompanying the item at all stages of the process. It will deal with all the logistics, such as export licenses, CITES permits—to enable the transport of items that might be prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora—and customs clearance.

Gander & White Shipping has been handling fine artworks and antiques with the utmost care and discretion for over 85 years.

Irrespective of which service they choose, clients will be guaranteed a bespoke package that includes made-to-measure crating and wrapping that is appropriate for the artwork, such as breathable polythene foam, corrugated rolls, and non-abrasive paper blankets. Bubble wrap is never, ever used.

Once packed, the items may have to go into one of Gander & White’s storage facilities in the US, UK, or France. Each one is temperature- and humidity-controlled, fire-proof, and, of course, highly secure. Then, when the owners are ready to have their collections delivered, their precious cargo will be transferred by road—in climate-controlled, satellite-tracked vehicles—by sea, or by air.

The transportation process is always complex and labor-intensive, but when the client is a major art gallery or auction house, the logistics become that much more fraught. “There is tremendous pressure on galleries to tour their exhibitions and masterpieces,” says Giles, “so works of art now have to travel far more than they did, which is not ideal. We transport many museum-grade pieces, and the amount of planning that goes into each and every one of those moves is enormous. And, of course, the more complicated the relocation, the greater the potential for something going wrong.”

Gander & White relocation
Currently operating in the UK, Paris, and several US locations, Gander & White has been used by Christie’s auction house as an approved relocations service.

Do things go wrong? “We’ve been in business since 1933 and in that time have moved thousands upon thousands of items, so yes mishaps have occurred. But they are incredibly few and far between and we have always been able to make good. We hold the highest accreditations in our business, we’re a founding member of ICEFAT [International Convention of Exhibition and Fine Art Transporters], an organization made up of the leading fine art shippers globally, and our storage facilities are among the very few in the world to have met the strict criteria for AXA Art’s Global Risk Assessment Platform. We do everything in our power to limit risk, but you can’t eliminate it completely, unfortunately. Having said that, our track record is extremely impressive.”