Damaged Work


I posed the question for Alyson Stanfield to use at artbizblog.com:
Have you ever shown at a venue that broke or damaged one of your artworks and didn’t offer to remunerate you for the loss? What did you do?

The response was over whelming, 19 38 comments. Admittedly a few of those comments were me connecting with an artist who owned a piece of mine. Very cool this small world of ours. Still the stories ranged from work lost in fires, stolen and or mishandled and it all seems to come down to contracts and insurance.

My piece Ink Well was damaged by a gallery during installation. It was an accident and yes I had a contract with the gallery and they did have insurance on the work while it was in their possession.

What did I do? I took it on the chin.


  1. It was a public not for profit gallery.
  2. There were extenuating circumstances with the people involved that I think are to personal to publish here.
  3. I was able to piece the work back together (sort of).

While the damage to this piece brought a tear to my eye I was able to make something of it. The gallery gathered up all the fragments and most of the breaks from falling off the wall to a concrete floor below were clean.  But because this work is encaustic I could not just glue it back together.

Hesitantly I applied melted wax as slip and used my torch to fuse. I had to pass the torch over the surface to create a good bond and remove the crack lines. This process moved the current layers of wax and the colours thus creating a whole new piece.

While I still prefer the original piece I am happy that I was able to maintain the focal point at the center of the piece which was my favourite aspect of the original.

Ink Well Before

Ink Well After

Which one do you prefer?

Shipping Art

IMG_5932Shipping art to the U.S. and getting it back again. It’s the getting it back that’s the tough part. I had 5 pieces in an exhibition in New York a few years ago. After the show was over and the gallery shipped it back, the work was stopped at the border. Customs would not release it until I paid a brokerage fee. I called Canada Customs and explained that I owned the work but it seems that they don’t have a way to handle this. There was a value placed on the work so there was duty. In the end I was told that the only way to avoid duty is to broker it yourself.

Now saying all that…

When I shipped the work to New York I used an art shipper. Actually 2 art shippers; one from Calgary to Toronto, then handed off from Toronto to New York. They took care of everything and all the costs were quoted up front. It was expensive (close to $900 for 5 pc’s) but it arrived all very safe and sound.

I believe the trouble I had on the return delivery was because the gallery tiring to save money shipped my work FedEx Ground! Why is still beyond me, this was a very reputable gallery who ships work back and forth all across America but not that often across the border. Had they used an bonafide art shipper I don’t believe I would of had the problems I had.

Did I mention that all the work can back DAMAGED! They even managed to break a wood crate. That’s because they shipped via ground and my work was bounced all around the U.S. before it even managed to reach the border. You can imagine how my heart sank when the work finally arrived 2 weeks later.

I hear a lot of horror stories about damaged art and all the artist can do is throw their hands in the air in defeat. I thought that I was going to be one of those but the gallery owner really came through for me. He fought tooth and nail with FedEx and managed to get me a settlement. They also sent me the encaustic that I would need to repair the work, which I was able to do.

The typical scenario is that the artist pays to have the work shipped there and the gallery is responsible to incur the cost of the return. Perhaps it would be prudent to discuss the shipping methods up front before entering into a contract.

Here’s a list of some art shippers at artbiz.ca