How to pack artwork for exhibitions: ways to ensure quick hand overs

One of the things I love most about being an artist is that moment when you see your work up on the gallery wall. After all the hard work of creating the final leg to get work to the exhibition is often forgotten about. Packaging artwork for exhibitions is an art in its own right, here, I’ll walk you through some effective methods to make drop offs a little bit easier.

Packing work for art shows, art exhibition with red paintings and woman in red top admiring work.
Image from

We’ll cover what you’ll need to pack work, the secret to quick drop offs and bespoke packing tips. Get your scissors and tape ready because you’re going to be an artwork packing ace!

Most cash-strapped artists have no intention of spending big money on packaging. This is where thinking about the artwork’s destination comes in. Save the luxury tissue paper for sending work direct to customers (see my post here) and focus on protecting the artwork as efficiently as possible, without breaking the bank.

hanging an art exhibition, curator and hanging team with two pictures
Hanging work for shows is a lot of work for the gallery Image from

With exhibition drop offs the key is to get yourself and your artwork in and out fast.

Why? Because hanging a show is A LOT of work for the curator and hanging team normally within a very tight time frame. The opening night is the time to chat and get to know each other, not the drop off. Be mindful of the team’s time and make your drop off as pain-free as possible.

Usually, there is a limited amount of time and even less space at show drop offs to unpack the work. Most exhibitions expect artists or couriers to remove the packaging and take it back with them.

Here are two hacks to help you…

  1. Using bubble wrap? Put it flat side to the picture, use masking or frog tape as it comes off easily and won’t pull the bubble wrap apart the way parcel or cellotape does. If you can find a table to unpack use it.
  2. Long journey or courier send? Consider the Stiffy Bag Stiffy Bag I The Art Bag  available in bespoke and standard sizes, they act as all in one frame protectors and come with an information wallet that sticks to the front. I’ve used these for storage and touring shows (where the packaging travels with the work) after a colleague recommended them. They’re a real godsend for easily removing work to drop into shows.
Tape and scissors at the ready for packing artwork to send to art exhibitions
Image from

It can be a challenge to package non-standard work. If you have a particular work that needs bespoke packaging, ask about the storage options ready to ship work to buyers if it sells. An example of this is my sculpture ‘Birth of Briareus in The Forest’ a resin work that is not easy to pack due to different height profiles on the front. It travels crated and in-fill packed, with clear opening instructions.

Charlie Kirkham Birth of Briareus in the Forest sculpture plus crate and packing box for sending bespoke artwork to art exhibitions
‘Birth of Briareus in the Forest’ has unusual height and is a delicate resin sculpture, it travels in a crate and void fill to shows. Crate and Box image from, Photos of Sculpture from Fraction CP.

Custom cardboard sleeves

This is a brilliant idea that artist Eric Gaskell demonstrated during a studio visit. He creates a custom box sleeve for each artwork by using large sheets of stiff carboard cut into boxes and secured with paper framer’s tape.  Each artwork is then protected in a bespoke sleeve, making it easy to transport and also attractive packaging to send out to buyers in. A simple, genius idea that saves time and money.

Now, instead of ordering loads of standard card sleeves why not make your own bespoke packaging?

Corrugated cardboard to make custom bespoke sleeves to send artwork to art exhibitions in
Image from

We’ve covered easy ways to package work for drop offs, why packaging needs to come off fast and some tips for making your own bespoke packing. I hope you found it useful, let me know your tips for art show drop offs in the comments, or find me on Instagram.


Charlie’s Portfolio Site

Stiffy Bag – The Art Bag

Eric Gaskell’s Gallery (

Stock photography


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