Transporting art is itself an art. At the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, we watched packaging artists at work in one of the world’s most famous museums.
The workers tackle the job with skillfully applied effort. Centimeter by centimeter, they wrap special air-cushioned foil around an over two-meter high wooden sculpture of a horse. Each layer is hermetically sealed with packing tape from tesa. Just one more final strip of tape, on which the exhibition venue “AMSTERDAM” is printed in large letters, and the precious cargo is ready to be shipped.
The four packaging artists are very well-versed in the shipment of masterpieces. They work for the Russian company Khepri Ltd., which specializes in transporting art treasures. With a total of 50 employees, 2018 alone they transported over 1000 works of artworks to 90 locations worldwide. In the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, the Khepri team ensures that the loaned items – worth millions of dollars – are securely packaged for transport.
"We do not scrimp on packaging materials or use substandard products because that could endanger an irreplaceable work of art."
> 3 million art treasures
can be found in the Hermitage Museum.
“Transport places enormous demands on artwork. Even just slight shaking is sufficient to cause damage. Therefore, there are strict rules,” says Khepri employee Dmitry Sadovsky. If the packaging of a work of art is inadequate, the insurer won’t pay in case of damage. Many transport containers are made especially for a particular exhibition item. For example, double-walled wooden crates protect paintings from jolts and temperature fluctuations.
tesa® adhesive tapes make it possible to optimally secure the works of art in their containers. “Even old frames are protected with tesa® masking tape. Costly damage can be prevented this way,” explains Dmitry Sadovsky. The packaging professionals have had negative experiences with the tapes of other manufacturers. “When removing cover tape strips, wooden pieces were often also pulled off, which then had to be painstakingly reconstructed. Since we started using tesa® that doesn’t happen to us anymore!”
The State Hermitage Museum consists of five buildings covering a total of 233,354 square meters. This corresponds to an area of nearly 33 soccer fields! For about 250 years, museum cats have been pussyfooting around the premises, guarding over three million art treasures. Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great, once had cats brought into the palace in order to combat the rat and mouse plague. As the Winter Palace was converted into a museum by Empress Catherine II in 1764, the feline museum guards were allowed to stay.