Art is usually carefully packaged before shipping, but what if you do the opposite and use the art itself as a box? In this experiment, 4 originals were bundled together, art facing outwards, and sent as far as possible (to Japan) and back, in order to see in what condition they return.
A recent piece called "Amazon Crime - (Same day thievery)" was fittingly painted on a custom, hand built box that can directly be hung on a wall. It got a lot of inquiries about when it might be available as an edition, which got me thinking about how it could be shipped. Its already a box, its kind of silly to place it in a second box... I wonder in what condition it would arrive in if it was sent as is? Theres only one way to find out!
Anybody who has received a TABBY piece will have noticed that a lot of care goes into every package. A box can contain anywhere from a few hundred, to a few thousand dollars worth of art, so you want it to withstand the rough ride ahead. Not only that, you want the outside to be anonymous and not advertise what valuable items are inside.
In this case we will ignore all that, skip any protection and embrace any dents, bruises, scratches, rain etc that the package might experience. It will just become part of the art.
What might look like a standard large box at first glance, is actually 4 individual, custom built boxes combined into one. The advantage here is that we can take them apart again later and have 4 boxes to hang as art.
Step one, build the boxes. Done!
Step two, paint the boxes. Done!
(The art is painted using spray paint/stencils and consists of 9 total layers.)
The 4 finished pieces are then securely combined into their final shipping form, one giant box.
But where do we send them? Japan of course! With the help from my good friend Rio at Gallery Kawamatsu in Tokyo, we now have a place to send it and somebody that can then send it back.
So now we have a box to send, but what should we put inside? Obvious answer, another box! Inside will be a 5th piece that the gallery in Japan can take out.
Brilliant, everything is coming together. The package is ready, the art is painted and the awkward customs forms filled out. "Contents of box: Box" "Value: ̶2̶0̶0̶0̶€̶ or is it 5€?". When exactly does art get its value? It hasnt been sold and I havnt officially added a price tag, so is it the material cost? How much was the cardboard? Can I give this away for free? Or might somebody from customs recognize it, claim a TABBY original is worth way more and apply customs fees..?
(Tangent but true story: Somebody once sent back a 100€ print they accidentally damaged and I offered to replace. It was opened at customs and they googled the piece. Since somebody had just flipped one of these prints on ebay for 500$, they declared that to be the official value. I then had to pay 100€ (20%) customs fee to receive my own, damaged print back. Good times.)
All thats left now is to bring it to the post office.
Pro tip: Dont stuff a giant box into a car by force, this is how it got its first bit of damage. One corner was left with a hole, but a piece of tape later and we had it covered again. I guess thats part of the art now as well.
The post office was also fun. Will the art lead to any questions? Will sending a 105€ express package to Japan, containing only one "cardboard box" raise any eyebrows? Yes!
(Beginning of voyage from Vienna, Austria --> Tokyo, Japan)
Postal Worker: So youre just sending an empty box?
TABBY: No, theres a box inside.
Postal Worker: So the content of the box is another box?
TABBY: Thats right.
Postal Worker: Like a wooden box?
TABBY: No, cardboard.
Postal Worker: Ah
The odd thing about the express shipping, is that they always have to make a phone call and explicitly ask if the shipping company will accept the package based on its contents. Most likely for insurance reasons or something.
Postal Worker on phone: Hello, I have an express package here..
Its a carboard box..
No, inside. The content is a cardboard box..
OK great, Ill tell him...
Postal Worker: Theyve accepted your package.
Success! With that and 105€ later, our experiment is finally on its way!
So what happens next? Well, our package is heading to the Vienna airport where it will board a plane straight to Tokyo. Assuming that everything goes as planned, it should arrive by the end of the week. Rio (from Gallery Kawamatsu) will pass on first updates on its condition and remove the 5th piece from inside. From there, he has also offered to ship it further to an art show in Osaka. Finally, if theres anything left of it, it will then be sent on its return journey to Europe and dismantled into the 4 individual pieces.
That being said, expect the next update after it has reached Tokyo and we will see from there..
So sit back, follow along and enjoy the ride!
BONUS: Since youve read the whole post you will be one of the first to know about the giveaway! Not yet officially announced, but a 6th piece is ready and waiting to be sent to a random lucky winner. This piece will also be shipped fully exposed and unprotected to your location.
Just comment on this post, or send a quick email to be included in the giveaway (A simple "Hi!" is enough, or feel free to write whatever you want).
A post will also be made on instagram later this week where everyone commenting can enter as well.
YOU CAN ENTER BOTH WAYS and double your chances of winning!
Update: This giveaway has ended and the prize was already shipped to a lucky winner
Thats all for now, the package is in ̶G̶o̶d̶'̶s̶ the postal worker's hands now. Is it currently airborne, is it getting scratched by other packages or crushed by a washing machine, being opened by Japanese customs or left in the rain on the tarmac? Tune in next time to find out!
Images by TABBY and Mike
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