Behind the Scenes of Art Logistics With Fine Art Shippers Co-Founder Ilya Kushnirskiy

The family-owned New York art logistics and storage company assists with all stages of fine art and antiques shipping, storing, and installing.

Courtesy of Fine Art Shippers, New York.

With operations dating back to 1995, the aptly-named New York art logistics company Fine Art Shippers has been working within the industry for nearly three decades and has developed a comprehensive roster of services for every stage of an artwork or antique’s journey—from pickup and transpiration to installation and storage. A family-owned and operated endeavor, Fine Art Shippers has the capacity to convey high value, fragile, and specialty works both domestically and internationally, employing industry top standards and a team of trained professionals.

Regularly working with items from large-scale artworks and antique furniture to small, delicate pieces such as ceramics and porcelains and everything in between, Fine Art Shippers offers practical solutions for both individual collectors and artists to major galleries and institutions.

While the logistics involved in the art world may not be front of mind for art lovers attending an art fair or perusing a major museum exhibition, it is one of the most important aspects of the international roster of events. We caught up with Fine Art Shippers Co-founder Ilya Kushnirskiy to learn more about the company’s background and what has contributed to the company’s continued success.

Portrait photo of Ilya Kushnirskiy of Fine Art Shippers standing in a grand New York apartment building foyer with the door open to the street behind him and some paintings installed on the walls that have molding. Wearing a black zip-up hoodie with one red stripe down each arm over a white shirt, holding his cellphone with both hands and smiling.

Ilya Kushnirskiy. Courtesy of Fine Art Shippers.

Can you tell us a little about your background and when you first joined the family art shipping business?

I’ve been involved in the arts since I was ten when my father became an antique dealer. I traveled with him across the country, attending various art and antique shows, helping him set up stands, move items, and manage the events.

At 16, I got my first job at the renowned Showplace Antique Show near Chelsea Market on 25th Street in New York. I worked as an art handler and packer, managing high-end antiques, hanging paintings, and installing fixtures. I continued this role throughout college.

In 2015, I enrolled in an M.B.A. program, where, among other things, we had a course in AI automation. I asked my management professor which jobs would still be available 25 to 30 years from now. She said, “If you want something secure, learn your father’s business.” She meant that people would need physical human-to-human services: you can’t move a piece of art with AI, you need people for that. That’s when I made my decision to make Fine Art Shippers my top priority project and make it a top art logistics company in the U.S.

I rebranded my father’s business, which he had run since 2002 under a different name, to Fine Art Shippers. I redesigned the website and developed the sales funnel, and by 2017, just before graduating, I dedicated myself fully to this company.

Inside a packing warehouse of Fine Art Shippers with a painting crate on a dolly and metal racks with cardboard boxes both full and unused.

Courtesy of Fine Art Shippers.

What experiences outside of Fine Art Shippers have helped you the most in your role?

My marketing experience has definitely helped me the most. I’ve been doing marketing since the early 2000s, starting with an online luxury watch sales business. It was very successful; we worked with eBay and Amazon and even established a lifestyle magazine. I ran the watch sales business for almost 12 years until it became extremely competitive. My partner took over, and I decided to grow professionally, which led me to pursue an M.B.A.

In 2015, I put all my efforts into Fine Art Shippers, using my skills in developing internet businesses, sales, and services. I also helped other companies build their jewelry businesses, which gave me a clear vision for Fine Art Shippers.

What sets Fine Art Shippers apart from other firms in the industry?
What truly sets us apart is our customer service. My telemarketing experience taught me the importance of exceptional customer service. We make it a priority to be always available for our customers and keep them informed at every stage. Our team is highly professional in gathering and acting on feedback. This approach allows our customers to feel comfortable entrusting us with their valuable pieces of art. Another important feature of our services is that each of our art handlers and drivers is trained as a professional installer. Every handler understands the art world and is equipped to manage various types of artworks, paintings, sculptures, antiques, glass, China, and more.  To sum it up, our process is highly personalized, making it more client-focused than that of the average art handling company. We do build relationships with our clients, and they appreciate that.

Inside a storage area and hallway with metal rolling doors down a long hallway with concrete floors.

Courtesy of Fine Art Shippers.

What is your company’s typical clientele? Do you primarily work with businesses like galleries or also artists and collectors?

We have both institutional and individual clients. Among our many clients are Doyle, Auctions at Showplace, Leonard Auction, Weschler’s Auctioneers and Appraisers, renowned artists Mark Tennant, Mitchell Schor, Tigran Tsitoghdzyan, and many others. We also ship to leading art shows on behalf of our clients, including assisting with full booth setup, such as the New York Architectural Digest Design Show, the Palm Beach Show, the Original Miami Antique Show, to mention just a few. For other locales, we also assist with museum and gallery exhibition setups.

What piece of advice would you give to people considering shipping or moving fine art or antiques?

Do not use common carriers, as art requires special handling and transportation conditions which they cannot provide. If you are shipping artwork, choose specialized companies that guarantee the proper handling and protection of your items according to the required transportation standards.

Professional art logistics companies offer climate-controlled environments, custom packaging, and experienced handlers who understand the fragility and value of art pieces. These services ensure that your artworks are transported safely and securely, which is not the case with common carriers.

Courtesy of Fine Art Shippers.

What is your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part is knowing that I play a significant role in the conservation of art history. I witness history in the making, experiencing not only classic and contemporary art firsthand. We transport, install, and store valuable art pieces, and these are services without which today’s art world is hard to imagine. Exhibitions would not be possible without art logistics. Clients would be unable to receive their works, and large collections couldn’t be stored without our collection management services which we offer as part of our alliance with Arcis, a high-end storage in New York City. It has museum-level conditions for the preservation of institutional and private collections, including Old Masters, ancient religious art (such as Russian icons, which is dedicated to my father’s collection), as well as modern and contemporary items. So, our services are crucial to the conservation of art in all its forms, and I am happy to be able to provide them.

Learn more about Fine Art Shippers here.

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