Don't Think Twice

When it comes to irreplaceable and invaluable art, there’s no room for error. Still, despite tremendous care, accidents do happen: in a few notable cases, lorries have broken sculptures, and bubblewrap has left distinctive patterns on painting surfaces. In an incident in 2001 that shook the art world, a precious Rembrandt painting suffered a gash on its way from Moscow to Houston. And on an airplane trip from Ireland to Australia in 2000, the 9th-century Book of Kells was damaged by in-flight vibrations. Insurance statistics paint a bleak picture: 60% of art world losses occur while pieces are in transit.

Yet given the insatiable global demand for traveling exhibitions, the show must go on — even in the face of unique challenges. Take Rodin’s The Kiss’s trip from Europe to Australia in 2016, for example: each step of the three-ton sculpture’s first journey out of Europe was pre-planned, from trucks with special suspension to the exact degree of turns down museum hallways. When all of these moving parts come perfectly in sync, the result is a stunning portrait of supply chain mastery.

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