Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review of Specialist Art Couriers in the UK

This post reviews the services offered by specialist art couriers in the UK.  It's of particular relevance to:
  • artists entering work for art competitions or art society exhibitions located outside their local area
  • art collectors who need to pick up art they have purchased from a gallery at some distance from where they live
I'm first going list the specialist art courier services in the UK that I have been able to identify

Second I'm going to review the basic information we can find out about them online - and their compliance with the regulations relating to marketing services online.

Third, I'm going to review the responses of the services recommended by the organisers of art competitions and major art society exhibitions to my questions about their services.

Finally I'm going to explain my conclusions about the current state of the marketplace for specialist art courier services in the UK.

Art Courier Services in the UK

Schedule of identified specialist services moving art in the UK

Below is a listing of the services I've identified as moving art in the UK.
  • These are specialist art couriers and not "white van man" services however their level of sophistication varies.
  • These are also NOT the various "normal" courier services which do not routinely offer the option to unwrap/wrap and/or store art when getting it to/from an exhibition.  Such services are more normally used by artists getting artwork direct to the client who has purchased the art.  (See today's post Shipping art: FedEx is the most trusted service)
  • Three of the services have very similar names which suggests possible scope for confusion.
  • Three of the firms (Art Moves of Chelsea, Picture Post and South Hams Express) have formal arrangements with the Mall Galleries and Parker Harris who arrange most of the major art competitions and art society exhibitions which are based in London.
  • Five of the eight firms have a website which provides further information about how their services work.  
  • None of the firms recommended by the Mall Galleries / Parker Harris have a website. The only written details available as to what is offered can be found on the Mall Galleries / Parker Harris websites.  It's focused on locations and says nothing about any other aspect of a contract for service.
  • This post in no way suggests that the services which are not commended by the Mall Galleries / Parker Harris are not of adequate quality.  Indeed, based on information on their websites, some of these are accredited by other organisations and 
Schedule of firms which move artwork

I was somewhat surprised to see that only ONE firm has published a website, an operational address, a registered company address and number,  an email address, a telephone number and a VAT number!

Specialist Art Courier
Pick-up Firms identified by FBA /  Parker Harris   
Website Address
Address
Telephone number
Email address
Art Move Ltd
No
110-118 Stewarts Road,
London SW8 4UG
+44 (0)20 7720 7460
Art Moves of Chelsea
Yes
NO WEBSITE
405 Kings Road, London SW10 0BB
020 7352 7492
Art on the Move Ltd
No
NO ADDRESS
NO EMAIL ADDRESS
Freephone:
+44 (0)800 141 2338
Chequers Transport
No
NO ADDRESS
NO EMAIL ADDRESS
Selby 01757 707077
Leeds 0113 243 8081
London 020 7384 3905
Pitstone 01296 662 211
Move-Art
No
3 St Leonards Road North Action London NW10 6SX
info@move-art.com
NO TELEPHONE NO.
Picture Post
Yes
NO WEBSITE
NO ADDRESS
picturepost@btinternet.com
01302 711011
07833 450788 (mobile)
Pack Send (Art & Antiques)
No
NO ADDRESS
NO EMAIL ADDRESS
NO TELEPHONE NO.
Contact via website form only
South Hams Express
Yes
NO WEBSITE
NO ADDRESS
01803 863205
075020 41139 (Mobile)

[UPDATE: Additional couriers of artwork have been identified in the comments with details of what they are best used and how they work]

Compliance with regulations for E-commerce

Not all the art courier/moving services have a website however ALL the services are listed online.

It's apparent from a review of information available on the web that not all of the art courier services have yet caught up with the legal requirements and guidelines relating to marketing and selling services online.    (The same requirements apply to all artists selling art on the Internet)

Indeed, based on a cursory check, in relation to one or two of the simpler compliance issues (as indicated in the schedule above) only one firm complied with all relevant regulations - Art Move Ltd.

Relevant legislation is summarised by me in Ecommerce - law and regulation in the UK within Ecommerce for Artists.  Those of particular relevance include:
  • the Distance Selling Regulations and 
  • The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002
I'm not going to highlight those who are breaching the regulations in this post will but will comment on this in a future post if the current state of affairs continues to prevail.  Below is a brief summary of just some of the information which is required.
The E-Commerce Regulations require that all commercial web sites make the following information directly and permanently available to consumers via the website:
  • the company's name, postal address (and registered office address if this is different) and email address;
  • the company's registration number;
  • any Trade or Professional Association memberships;
  • the company's VAT number.
Review of recommended services
Artists who wish to submit work but prefer to avoid travelling to London can hand in their work to various collection points located throughout the UK (see below). This is at the artist’s expense. You can also arrange specific collections and delivery with art couriers recommended by the Mall Galleries.
Mall Galleries - Regional Hand-Ins
The introduction of digital entry for screening purposes in relation to Calls for Entries which are organised by the Mall Galleries will reduce the number of artists needing to send and retrieve art as a response to a call for entries.

However once an artist has made it through the screening stage, he or she still has to get their artwork to London - which can be a very expensive business if transported by car or train.  That artwork also has to arrive unwrapped for handling by those receiving the art.  The specialist art courier firms provide a way of delivering that service and reducing the cost.

Three firms are recommended for the purposes of regional collections for art competitions and art society exhibitions run by Parker Harris or the Federation of British Artists.  The couriers surveyed are:
  • Art Moves of Chelsea
  • Picturepost
  • Dave Allen (South Hams Express)
Survey of art courier services 

The rationale for this post started from the change to the call for entries arrangements for the FBA exhibitions.  One of the ideas behind the initial screening via digital entries is that it might encourage more regional artists to submit work - as indeed happened when the Threadneedle Prize switched to an initial round of digital entry for screening this year.

If an artist is then selected for stage 2 (ie review by the selectors) they then need to make arrangements pretty fast to get their work to London.  The Call for Entries are very explicit about WHERE pickups are made but not how much it costs.

I've never had to use courier services to move art within the UK so I then wondered about how the service works - and looked for websites explaining how the service works - and found nothing.

I then wrote to the art courier services and asked questions - having explained my intention to write this post - and got three replies.
I propose writing a post this week or next about:
  • the existence of regional art couriers recommended by the Mall Galleries
  • the services offered by these couriers
  • guideline prices for services offered
I've also reviewed the opinion polls I've been running about posting and shipping art.  Making A Mark Reviews today has a post Shipping art: FedEx is the most trusted service which is about posting/shipping art in the UK or USA.  This primarily is about getting artwork from artist to art collector and the type of services artists use to mail/ship art they have sold - on a routine basis.  The opinion polls included in this review have the option to use a specialist art courier service.  The two charts which relate to the UK indicate minimal use is made of art courier services.  Usage is particularly low when compared to the USA.   I also wondered why usage of couriers is so low in the UK.

Questions and Responses - Regional Pickups

Q.  Where do you collect art from?  Do you have lists of the locations you pick up from?  Do you have maps of the locations you pick up from? (Can you enclose a jpeg image of this?)

Art Moves of ChelseaWe are an Art Transporter, we are London based, we cover Bristol, Sussex, Surrey, Kent and London for the open exhibitions. And also do Hand in points for some Parker Harris run Exhibitions in Norwich, Birmingham and Cardiff, as well as the areas listed above.

Also from our base in London, we have Hand in and Hand out of works for various exhibitions, this can be for an Individual Artist to have delivered or collected from maybe The Mall Galleries, The Bankside Gallery or The Royal Academy because they have something else to do on that day. Or as The RWA in Bristol does, use our base as a London Hand in point for their Open Exhibitions.


Picture Post: We have for many years collected artwork at the points listed, not only for the Mall Galleries but for all of the London competitions. Artists also use the service to connect directly with galleries enroute.

Artwork from within the UK and abroad can be received by post or courier for “Handing In” on the due day, and of course we collect and “pack & post” for return.  Returning artwork is always wrapped or boxed as appropriate.

South Hams Express: We are a specialist art courier company and offer our service to artists and galleries a like.  Based in South Devon we run to London and the Home Counties each week and every two weeks to the North of England taking in the Midlands.

Q.  Do you ever pick up from the artist?

Art Moves of ChelseaWe transport for Individual Artists, Galleries, Societies and Organizers of Art Competitions to various places throughout the U.K.

South Hams ExpressOur service is both Gallery to home addresses for on line or Gallery purchases as well as the movement of art work from artist to Galleries and return.

Q.  Do you provide packing/unpacking services for an additional fee?

Picture Post:  Picture Post collects and returns for all scheduled events even though the volume can occasionally not be profitable. We also store work both before Hand In, and before return, as required, free of charge.

South Hams ExpressWe are also specially insured for the carriage of art work and also will pack and wrap if required.

Q.  Where do you collect / pick up art for the exhibitions at the Mall Galleries?

South Hams Expressin respect of work to and from the Mall Gallery this again is a fixed rate but is dependent on the size and the number of items being transported.

Q. What information do you provide to the artist prior to pick-up?
No responses from any of the firms


Q. How much notice do you need for a pick up? Does this ever vary?
No responses from any of the firms

Q.  Do you have a complaints policy?
No responses from any of the firms

Q.  Do you monitor customer satisfaction?
No responses from any of the firms

Questions and Responses - Prices for Services 

What do you charge for your service?  Does it vary according to location?  Do your charges vary between Mall Gallery pickups and one-off pickups? Do you do any offers or discounts re pickups to encourage repeat custom?  I also asked for guideline prices from different locations.

Art Moves of ChelseaOur prices start from £10.00 + VAT, but each individual request is priced before we carry out the transportation, we invite requests for quotes by telephone, fax and email.  And for collection and deliveries outside London of small loads we will try to give a part load price, (grouping loads to keep the price down)

Picture PostPrices vary with the size of the piece submitted and are available to individual artists by email or telephone. In an ideal world I would like to lay before you the fine detail requested, but fear that this business is vulnerable to opportunist general carriers picking off the easy work without having to offer the breadth of service that artists need. 

South Hams Express: Our rates and charges are not for general publication and are therefore a matter of negotiation between both Galleries and artists and ourselves and are based on location, volume and the final delivery point......I hope this gives a general insight into our method and type of operation but regrettably we are not prepared to have our rates and charges published on a blog or general accessible site which could be accessed by all and sundry and especially unscrupulous white van man type operators who may not represent this specialist type of operation in the correct manner.

Conclusion

While I'm very grateful to the couriers who responded to my questions, I am genuinely very surprised at how little detailed information is available to artists other than by a written or telephoned enquiry.  Each of the services were asked to provide me the type of information they supply to artists.  I'd expected to be sent a leaflet which set out how services worked - and got precisely nothing - although I did get quite helpful emails (see answers above).

I'm in no way suggesting that any of the services are unprofessional in terms of practical delivery, however there does appear to be some scope for improving communication.  It's almost as if detail about the service offered and the price charged has been withheld from public consumption in case this compromises business interest.

I also confess I'm rather surprised that few of the courier services listed above have got to grips with the Internet in terms of
  1. the scope it offers to market specialised services to artists at home and abroad and art collectors at home and abroad AND
  2. the requirements to comply with laws and regulations relating to the transparency of transactions with firms offering products or services on the Internet
I'd expect almost all artists and art collectors will always want to commission specialist art courier services that demonstrate their knowledge about how to carry art in a professional manner.  It struck me as very odd that firms would be very concerned about "white van man" competition when artists are only too well aware of the ease with which frames can be damaged.

The information artists need to know from art courier services is
  1. where and how the basic service will be provided, 
  2. what additional options are available 
  3. an indicative price for what they will be charged for the basic service and any additional options
  4. what insurance the courier service carries for any damages incurred in transit
  5. how problems are resolved
  6. all the basic details required by law and regulations relating to how to contact a business advertised on the internet and validate its history/existence
Indicative prices are not available - and this is not helpful.  While I appreciate that price quotations may need to be very specific it would be very helpful to those working on a limited budget and/or within time constraints if examples of prices charged were available online.

I was impressed that at least one firm is currently able to detail all details required by law and regulation and prices charged for services offered "business to business".

Such a pity that the same information is not transparent and easily available to all artists - and provided by all firms.

If you have experience of any service - whether or not it's listed - and would like to comment please use the comments function below.  Please also share any information you have about a reliable service or alternative method of moving art that you've been satisfied with (whether or not it's listed).

Note 1: A post like this would normally be on Making A Mark Reviews however, within the context of moves towards digital entry for art competitions and art society exhibitions, I'm writing about it here in the first instance.  However any follow ups will be on Making A Mark Reviews - and highlighted on this blog in my weekly "who's made a mark this week".

Note 2:  Making A Mark Reviews has a recent post  Shipping art: FedEx is the most trusted service
about posting/shipping art in the UK / USA.  This primarily is about getting artwork from artist to art collector and the type of services artists use to mail/ship art they have sold - on a routine basis.  The opinion polls included in this review have the option to use a specialist art courier service.  The two charts which relate to the UK indicate minimal use is made of art courier services.  Usage is particularly low when compared to the USA.

Links:

7 comments:

Jennifer Tetlow said...

So pleased to see this post - carriers and getting my work to exhibition and or the customer has often caused me difficulty. Mostly I deliver myself, but sometimes I need a helping hand. I have found Palletways fantastic, though not suitable for all deliveries (ie big vehicles and work on a pallet). I also use a local private removals man, who is careful and wonderful with customers - Neal's Removals, Whitby - but sometimes he does not have a vehicle going to my destination for many weeks. So many of the 'experts' are London based and it becomes uneconomic to use them unless it is a big project - I have found some carriers' pricing vague and inconsistent. Thanks for help with contacts and advice.

Tina Mammoser said...

You missed out my favourite shipper: Aardvark Art Services. :) Based in Lancashire they alternate weeks with London and Scotland runs. I admit I've not used them for a competition shipment but have had them deliver to individual buyers and deliver entire exhibitions of work to Yorkshire. They collect from my door and will even wrap if needed - fantastic for really large work. http://www.aardvarkartservices.com/

Internationally I use HMC Logistics who also specialise in art and antiques. http://www.hmclogistics.com/about.php Again, collect from my door and they pack and crate the work then use a courier (like Fedex). The benefit is they will send and insure work that's too large for an individual to send through any of the couriers. (Fedex/UPS/DHL have size limits of what they will accept from a private individual rather than a company; and there are limits on insurance for fine art.)

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Many thanks Tina

I'll add these two into the resources for artists website and suggest within the post that people also look at the comments.

The issue about size of artwork is important as I agree that's a criteria that some carriers use as to whether or not they accept artwork from artists

Gayle Mason said...

I've used Packsend several times and always found the service to be excellent.
They collect from home and keep in contact on the day the artwork is due to be delivered, confirming once the gallery have the artwork. They also ring several days later to ask if everything was satisfactory.
The gallery have also confirmed how well packaged all the artwork was and how professional they found the service.
If you look at the store locator on the website you can find full details including email, full address and telephone number.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks Gayle - great to have such detailed feedback. It sounds a very professional service

Moira Ladd said...

thanks for this info. i have wanted to get my work into the London galleries for a while now, but not knowing the area has been difficult. I noticed there are exhibitions coming up at the mall galleries and saw that my nearest handing in place is Bristol, but was worried how much it would cost. trying to compare it with train fairs etc from North Dorset is no joke.I couldnt find any ifo either. - as for Bristol, well thank god my partner comes from there or I wouldnt have a RWA was either!

Katie Diacon said...

There is a free guide for artists on packing and shipping art available at www.packagingexpert.co.uk/free-book. Pass the word around.

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