Its been an exciting week but the waiting has paid off!
Quick recap: We're shipping original art on the outside of a package instead of inside, in order to see what condition they arrive. The first XXL package to Japan was torn apart by customs and returned, but a smaller replacement shipped again. The returned XXL package was then sent off to Hamburg, Germany in order to avoid another run in with customs.
Did they arrive, what is their condition and why was the first package returned by customs? You're about to find out!
Once again I was hooked to checking tracking for any updates. I was pretty optimistic about the piece heading to Germany, since there would be no customs officials inspecting the box or its contents. The Japan piece was more questionable. It was basically heading to the same people who had inspected, cut apart and denied our first package just hours before.
Japan tracking: "Item forwarded to destination country". Jackpot! That was the update I was waiting to see. Last time our package never left the country, but this time Austrian customs didnt find any technical reason to deny passage. All thats left now is Japanese customs and we're in the clear.
The package heading to Rudi at Urbanshit Gallery in Hamburg was also showing promising updates. After 2 days it "arrived in the destination country", the next day it arrived in Hamburg and soon after it was "out for delivery". At 11:02 we seal the deal: "item delivered"!
Half an hour later I receive a message from Rudi confirming the delivery. Included were these perfect pictures:
Hello old friend!
Success! It arrived and hasnt been smashed into tiny little pieces. In fact, it looks like its in pretty good condition for traveling 1000km.
No major damage to be found, but this package has only finished half its journey. Dont forget that it will be heading right back to the post office and shipped all the way back to Austria. We will be examining it in detail once it (hopefully) returns.
But first Rudi had one more task. Inside our package is the very valuable cargo: A hand painted TABBY original " Amazon Crime" on a custom build cardboard box! What else would one expect.
Unlike the first attempt sent to Japan, this one was in perfect condition. It will be staying with the gallery, or donated to the Louvre.. Ill let Rudi decide.
The large box is then re-sealed and sent back on its return journey to Austria. Safe travels, it should be used to it by now.
So whats our package in Japan up to you ask? Well Im happy to report that after 3 days it had "arrived in country of destination", followed by the wonderful message "Item passed customs-/security check". 2 days later comes the exciting update "Item is out for delivery" and finally, after a lot of work, unexpected setbacks, and 160€ in shipping, "Item delivered"!
We did it, our piece has finally touched down on the streets of Tokyo and is safely in the hands of Rio at Gallery Kawamatsu.
(Pictured below: A very handsome Rio with a very jet-lagged Amazon Crime box)
Even this original "Stik" decided to stop by and take a look.
In case 10,000km travel wasnt enough, this piece still had another journey to Osaka ahead (500km). There it would arrive just in time to be included for display at an exhibition.
But first lets give its current condition a quick look:
The piece itself is in surprisingly great condition. Maybe its luck, or maybe it got a bit of extra love and care due to art loving postal workers, but there is very little wear and tear to be found. One of the corners has a small dent, but barely an issue since its on the back side.
Since this box was shipped completely empty, it might be the lightest package ever to enter Japan. It didnt have much time for sightseeing, after a couple of update pictures it was sent off to Osaka the same day.
At this point both packages were back in the hands of postal workers, once again taking a risky journey. So far all of the art has held up incredibly well and we'll give a final assessment when they arrive at their end destinations. The large package from Hamburg should be back in my hands soon, where I can inspect and also take it apart into its 4 separate pieces of art. The Japan piece will soon be on display at the art fair, where everyone can hear of its story and see the results for themselves.
But what was the real reason why the first package was denied by Austrian customs? Dozens of you commented and wrote emails about what you think it could be. Personally, before it was sent, I thought they might not like the fact that it was built out of 4 smaller boxes. But that wasnt it, this was: Money is not permitted.
Thats right, the 1$ bill that was attached to the art inside the large box (which is used for authentication), the one they had ripped off, was the official reason they didnt allow the whole package to be sent to Japan.
It might be worth noting that hundreds of packages have been sent over the years, all with a dollar bill attached, and none of them ever had an issue. I have this crazy hunch that the art on the outside MIGHT have something to do with the fact that they opened it up and tore apart everything inside. It seems like they were very skeptical, destroyed its contents, didnt really find anything, were still skeptical and then said to themselves "just mention the money as a reason to send it back".
I called the post office after its return, inquiring about their policy on sending small amounts of money (specifically to Japan). Turns out money is allowed, as long as its sent in a package (and not as a letter).
This means that our package should have been allowed. The issue wasnt that it wasnt declared on the customs forms, they said "cash is not allowed".
Below are parts of the letter from customs. It states:
X contents not permitted , X valuables/ cash/ credit cards
Hand written: "According to customs regulations and general terms and conditions, cash is not permitted"
My favorite part of the letter is that they highlighted the important parts. At the very top they thought it was especially important to highlight "Dear customer", added a handwritten "!" and then highlighted it as well! Thanks customs department, I love you too!
Either way, c'est la vie. It made for an interesting story so I have no complaints. Several of you had guessed something related to the dollar bill and everyone who mentioned it will be sent free stickers.
So now we wait one more time. The next update should be the final one and will come once both packages arrive at their destinations. Also, a winner for the Amazon Crime box giveaway will be picked and their piece sent unprotected through the mail. Results have been great so far, be sure not to miss out on the final verdict!
(Rio with the Amazon Crime experiment in hands. Above the TABBY "Koi Painter" from 2018 can be seen as well)