Old-school arts industry embraces tech amid COVID concerns

Visibility solutions take the place of human couriers

All shipments – from toilet paper to fragile electronics – deserve to be handled with the utmost respect. Moving high-value works of art and antiquities, however, requires next-level care and precision from everyone involved in the shipment. When goods are both fragile and high-value, visibility and shipment condition insights become even more essential.

Masterpiece International moves fine arts across the globe – serving museums, collectors, galleries and private clients. The company handles everything from coordination and packaging to actual transport, catering to each client’s unique shipping needs. 

The fragile nature of fine art means that every little detail is important. Temperature, humidity, light exposure, shock and security risks must all be actively managed to ensure each piece arrives at its destination on time and in full. Historically, this has required a high level of human interference. 

“Normally, a fine art shipment travels with a courier from each museum – a dedicated person stays with the piece through every step of its transport from point A to point B,” said Tina Sullivan, vice president of fine arts for Masterpiece’s Western region. “The pandemic complicated this practice with travel bans, import and export restrictions and an overwhelming hesitancy from museums to put their people at risk.”

Pandemic-fueled hesitancy forced this old-school industry to tap into technology to meet its visibility needs. After testing shipment trackers from multiple companies, Masterpiece ultimately decided to partner with Tive. According to Sullivan, this decision came down to Tive’s commitment to excellence, emphasis on customer service and disposable trackers. 

“Tive is unique because we truly believe that every shipment matters, so we work to make sure that logistics professionals can eliminate preventable delays and damage,” Tive founder and CEO Krenar Komoni said. “We have 24/7 live support that acts as an extension of your team; if something falls outside of a customer’s defined parameters, our team knows and can respond immediately.”

Tive prides itself on taking visibility beyond a bare-bones dots-on-a-map approach and providing state-of-the-art in-transit visibility. For high-value shipments like fine art, Komoni thinks the company’s trackers have a lot to offer even after human couriers are given the green light to accompany shipments again. 

“It’s all about exceptional, personalized service. If you can add an extra layer of visibility on any high-value shipment, why not offer that to your customer? It benefits the customer and the shipper,” Komoni said. “It’s not always enough to have someone accompany a shipment. With real-time insights, the customer and shipper can see the location and condition of a shipment. Technology catches things a person might not like temperature, light or humidity. If conditions are out of acceptable ranges, the point person can be contacted immediately and take action.”

Switching from human couriers to technological trackers during the pandemic has also provided significant cost savings in the fine art industry. Considering both the high cost of human couriers and Tive’s now proven ability to handle the job, Sullivan thinks that higher reliance on technological visibility tools could be one pandemic trend that sticks around. 

“This is definitely something new for our industry,” Sullivan said, noting that only one exhibition during her past 20 years had previously required a tracker. “Having a courier and a tracker will not be mutually exclusive for museums in the future. They’re going to be doing both, and we’re banking on Tive.”

Ashley Coker

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She covers air cargo, trucking and sponsored content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.