Introduction to Shipping and Logistics
Behind the seamless transition of artworks is a complex system of moving parts – the art logistics sector – and it is an active employment market.
Credit: Stephane Yaich
As the sector’s primary source of employment at all levels, art world shipping and storage firms offer indispensable outsourced solutions to a diverse range of art businesses, including galleries, dealers, high-profile private collections and auction houses.
The largest of these tend to operate through specialised departments, tailored to specific client types and services. Their staff handle meticulous planning, storage, precise transit, delivery, and installation. Moreover, dedicated customs and legal teams ensure that the necessary certifications, including insurance and condition checks, are meticulously managed. Teams (or individuals) in smaller companies may find themselves responsible for some or all of the above, alongside client account management and business development duties.
Be it through a global corporation or a local outfit, candidates entering the art world via the logistics sector will likely find several doors open to them as they forge a path forwards, some leading to in-house positions in the businesses they may have previously served.
Credit: Lefty Kasdaglis
For example, as mentioned in the SML Guide to Gallery Administration and Operations, galleries and dealers, especially those operating across multiple international locations, often employ registrars. These in-house logistics experts deftly navigate customs, tax regulations, and the complexities of bonded warehouses, in close collaboration with outsourced partners to ensure artworks arrive precisely when and where they are needed.
Beyond this, others may transition into positions ranging from conservation to project and relationship management across auction houses, art advisories, cultural institutions and non-profits, art technology, innovation and/or education,
Ultimately, art logistics serves as the linchpin connecting every facet of the art industry. Safeguarding artworks during transit, especially those distinguished by age, fragility, or exceptional value, requires a sophisticated skill set that reaches far beyond the technical frame within which we often view the sector and its talent.
SML and Art Shipping & Logistics Roles
Initially supporting on in-house logistical hires for traditional art world businesses, our consulting team are increasingly working with specialised firms of all sizes to discover, vet and place candidates suited to the various dimensions and departments that comprise their businesses. With the help of our growing research function, we look both within and beyond the art world to find the best match for hires across the globe. Previous placements have included (but are not limited to) heads of client services, operations team leads, entry-to-mid-level account managers, and team co-ordinators. Through these processes and the candidates we engage, we have come to understand the nuances of the sector, the unique qualities necessary to succeed, and the breadth of transferable skills it is possible to gain whilst working in this fast-paced, high-pressure, but also hugely rewarding and formative environment.
- Stephane Yaich
- Lefty Kasdaglis