Whilst it may be cold and dark this January in the Northern Hemisphere, we wanted to brighten our days by celebrating some of the more unusual logistical requests our shippers have carried out. Special exhibitions, extraordinary objects and unique occasions require the best fine art logistics services, and our global shippers have been more than happy to support operations when the unusual has been required!
In Spain, a most unique operation was carried out by ICEFAT member TTI for the purposes of ground-breaking scientific research. In 2016, the art handlers of TTI packed, crated and transported four extremely fragile mummies from the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid across the city to Quirónsalud University Hospital for CT scanning. With a medical machine normally meant for the living, the intention here was to use it to better understand the bodies of the mummified individuals and the processes used during mummification. Three of the mummies were from the Museum’s Egyptian collection and one was a “Guanche” mummy from the 12th or 13th century, from the Canary Islands. This was a complex operation for many reasons, not least because of the care and respect necessary at every stage of the operation transporting human remains.
Mathieu Scrivat, Director of TTI, managed the operation. He says: “Every detail of the move was prepared several weeks in advance. A special crate was designed for the very fragile Guanche Mummy and eight highly skilled packers, two drivers and one technical coordinator worked together for the operation itself”.
The vulnerability of the human remains necessitated atmospheric control at all stages of the operation. Scrivat explains that they were transported in a climatized fine art truck (similar to equipment held by the majority of ICEFAT agents), each with an air cushion set to the correct humidity. These special preparations were enacted after closing hours of the museum and the move took place in a single night. Once the scanning was complete, TTI delivered the mummies back to the museum with the same care as in which they were delivered.
An ICEFAT shipment should always be of the highest standard no matter the cargo, but extra pressure was on for this one in particular as the shipment was subject to two nationally televised documentaries about the mummies and the discoveries of the scanning, “The Golden Mummy” and “The Guanche Mummies”. Of course, the operation went off without a hitch!
Another group of mummies took an even longer trip with two ICEFAT shippers in 2014, when BALtrans International Moving and Gander & White Shipping arranged the delivery of Egyptian artifacts to the South Florida Science Museum and Aquarium in the US. The objects, on loan from Bolton Museum in the UK, were to be shipped from Hong Kong, where they had been exhibited previously. The seamless relationships created by the ICEFAT global network enabled Hong Kong-based BALtrans to work closely with the US agent, Gander & White, to arrange the export of objects.
Three shipping containers (one 20ft and two 40ft) were transported by sea and a smaller shipment of more delicate artifacts was sent by airfreight from Hong Kong to Florida. Over 200 artifacts were transported, with some requiring CITES certificates. These are necessary when exporting or importing an object containing an endangered material listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). ICEFAT shippers often transport antique objects that are made from endangered materials and can carry out all the required administration for this (including CITES). Gander & White did so here, completing 17 CITES applications for objects in the collection, for objects containing hippopotamus, crocodile, elephant, and falcon.
Upon arrival in Florida, Gander & White brought one of the five mummies that were shipped, a toddler girl, to Palm Beach Children’s Hospital for detailed CT scanning to find out more about the individual. Radiologists carried out scans and made discoveries regarding the cause of her death (probably tuberculosis) and the intricate method of her embalming being the same as for an adult.
The exhibition “Afterlife: Tombs and Treasures of Ancient Egypt”, containing the five mummies, was installed by Gander & White, before shipping back to the UK. A unique shipping operation for many reasons, not least because it was the largest ever US exhibition of Egyptian artifacts from an overseas collection!
Over in the central Mediterranean, Italian ICEFAT shipper Apice recently realized a unique project of their own. The fine art shipper transported and installed a symbol of the city of Brescia, Winged Victory of Brescia, to its home in the Santa Giulia Museum in the city. The 1st century Roman bronze had spent two years in restoration, and a fibreglass copy was in residence while this work was taking place. Organizations from all over Lombardy supplied their services to renew the statue, such as contributing a new marble plinth and designing lighting, and Apice had the honor of organizing the logistics to move Brescia’s famous symbol back into place.
Being an ICEFAT shipper, however, means that every operation is important, no matter whether it involves a region-wide operation or a slightly smaller one. A recent operation by Buenos Aires-based ICEFAT member Delmiro Mendez e Hijo serves as a great example of this. A long-standing client of the company had bought an artwork at a London auction as a birthday present to himself and wanted to ship it over to Argentina. As the auction had taken place just before his birthday, the client expected the piece to arrive in the weeks following the day. Delmiro Mendez e Hijo went the extra mile to ensure that the artwork not only arrived early, but secretly liaised with the client’s assistant to organize delivery on his birthday, all while the client was kept in the dark. The client was stunned and overjoyed to have the work delivered on the day itself! Operations like this may not grab the headlines but are part and parcel of what we ICEFAT fine art shippers do. As leading shippers, deliverers and installers of fine art and exhibitions, we facilitate unique events and experiences for art lovers the world over.