Aleksandra Bzdzikot




Preparing your art exhibition abroad - all you need to know

Recently, I am taking part in a couple of exhibitions. Usually, this is quite a busy time, from one art show to another. Last month I participated in an art exhibition in Udine, Italy and soon, basically in 2 days' time, I will have my exhibition at the Steiner Gallery in Vienna


If you're curious to check how the process of the preparation for a personal art exhibition looks like  - then, I hope you'll find the below information handy.


After you have successfuly signed the contract with the gallery you feel simply amazing and full of overwhelming "I can do it!" energy :) That's great, because your positive attitude plays an important role in the preparations, which are time-consuming and not so easy at the beginning, especially with the respective customs regulations. But if you treat this as a challenge, and not a problem, then it's an interesting process to experience.



It's up to you to make a selection of your artworks, which will be shown at the art show, so make sure you choose the ones that define your style best. For my exhibition in Vienna, where I am going to show twenty of my works, I have selected impresssionistic landscapes on canvas and my women portraits. Naturally, it's good as well to have the opinion of the gallery owners to confirm your selected works will go well together.




This is a very important step, which is useful in the customs procedure. Make a list of all your pieces and accompany them with clear photographs and description.

My list contained such information as: title of the work, size, medium and the pricelist. This list you can then forward to your art gallery and use for the shipment of your paintings abroad. The more details the inventory includes, the better it is. As an example, the inventory of my artwork "Paradise found" looks as follows:


Artist: Aleksandra Bzdzikot

Title: "Paradise found"

Size: 70 cm x 50 cm

Medium: oil on canvas 

Year of production: 2016

Origin: CH (Switzerland)



This is the tricky part and the most difficult at the same time. If you're shipping your art abroad you must find out in advance how to do it and what is the correct procedure. If you are based in an EU country and you are shipping your works to another EU country - then I think it's less of a hustle.

My case was different. I was shipping works from outside of EU (Switzerland) into the EU (Austria). It took me quite a while to get to know the regulations and it ended up with endless phone calls with the customs officers, who do not necessarily know other languages that their own :-) Therefore, if you do not speak well the language of the country of import it's better, in my view, to rely on help of your friends, in my case German-speaking friends. Customs regulations are legal regulations, therefore, it is essential to fully understand them. When you export something from Switzerland and import it into another country you are legally obliged to pay the customs duty, import taxes and VAT, depending on your case. 


I decided to make an ATA Carnet, which helps me to smoothly cross the border without paying any taxes, provided all the works will be imported back to Switzerland. It works perfectly if you are shipping many artworks and you don't want to be caught up at the customs control with no documents for your paintings.

It looks quite complicated, I know! But once you figure out how to do it, you can surely say you have become a junior expert in customs law :)



If some of your artworks are not on canvas, but on paper or other medium they need framing. Make sure you frame them in advance, to have a big supply of time before the exhibition. If you have many works to frame, try to negotatie with your frames supplier, as the framing costs can be quite high. 

Frame increases the dimensions of your artwork, so it's advisable to put it in your inventory and tick the pieces which are framed.




This concerns paintings on canvas. Those, which are framed, ussually have hacks or hangers at the back of the frame.

When it comes to canvas, you are not equipped with any hanging option. Therefore, it is very important to fix a hanging at the back of your canvas painting before shipping it to your gallery. The best option is to install a wire on screws, like below.




Pack the works properly to avoid any damage during transportation. Regardless of the fact whether it's a domestic or international transport put enough layers of the bubble plastic wrap to protect it from the scratches and dents

If you're exhibiting abroad, you need to think about the best and cost-effective shipping option for your painitngs. This depends on:


a) the size of the artworks

b) the distance to your exhibit location

c) the way of transport: car, plane, shipping forwarder company


My transport to Vienna first was going to be by car from Zurich, but then I resigned from this option to take a flight. The size of my paintings allowed me to put them into 3 big suitcases of checked baggage and arrive to Vienna within 1 hour flight. One painting had nonstandard dimensions, so I was able to take it on board of a plane. 

The flight option works well if the size of your paintings can fit into a big luggage case. Just remember to arrive early at the airport before the departure to go to the customs and stamp your ATA Carnet. 


As soon as you ship and hang your paintings in the gallery it's time to relax before the vernissage! I am spending my days in Vienna strolling around the city and visiting its splendid museums and art galleries. 


The vernissage at the Steiner Gallery starts tomorrow at 19:00 and I will be happy to welcome you there!



See you next time,




16.07.2018 13:54:08

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