Friday 19 February 2010

New Rule on Air Cargo Worries Art World

Apparently art dealers are worried that the packages they send as cargo in commercial passenger planes will no longer be as immune from scrutiny as it has been until now reports the New York Times. It is estimated that that as much as 20 percent of art shipped around the world travels as part of the 13,000 tons of cargo a day is transported by passenger airlines.
Since last February, airlines have been required to screen half of their passenger-air cargo (and, since late 2008, all cargo on narrow-bodied jets). But shippers say that several categories of cargo, including art, pharmaceuticals, high-tech equipment and perishable food, are almost always passed over when airlines have discretion because of the difficulty of searching such crates should an explosives-residue test or bomb-sniffing dog give reason to do so.
Now, under new regulations made by the Transportation Security Administration beginning on Aug. 1, all items shipped as cargo on commercial passenger airplanes will have to go through the full airline security screening. Airline employees will now be able to open carefully crated works of art to search them the way checked baggage is sometimes searched now. Art-shipping experts say that the burden of the new regulations will fall more heavily on galleries and private dealers.
John McCollum, the international shipping manager for Stebich Ridder International, an art-shipping company said another complication the art world would encounter involved the frequent use of anonymous parties in transactions.
You’re a dealer in San Francisco and you’re trying to sell a piece that happens to be in a gallery in New York, and the buyer is in Paris, but the guy in New York, for all kinds of reasons, doesn’t want anyone to know that he’s the one selling the piece,” Mr. McCollum said. Because the federal government requires airlines to ensure that cargo comes only from known shippers — those who have filled out paperwork or been identified in other ways as being legitimate — such hidden parties in art deals will have a much more difficult time remaining hidden. “It’s going to be a mess,” Mr. McCollum said.
Oh dear. And the no-questions-asked dealing and anonymous sellers does not lead to a "mess" in certain areas of the "art" world, like antiquities?

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