Founded in 2017, by art-loving entrepreneurs Edouard Gouin and Clement Ouizille, Convelio is leveraging technology to simplify the often complicated and expensive processes of shipping fine art, collectible furniture and high-end luxury goods worldwide. We spoke with Edouard about how the company originated, what makes Convelio different from other shipping companies, and how their expertise can be applied to overcome the challenges faced by collectors importing and exporting from Russia.
– Please could you tell us how you came up with the business idea? Why fine arts shipments?
Edouard Gouin: I met Clement while we were both working at a startup incubator in Berlin and we knew that one day we wanted to start a company together. I ended up working in the art and design sector and Clement was leading logistics and shipping for an online design marketplace. We were both experiencing first-hand the pricing and operational inefficiencies linked to fine art shipping. In a quickly changing market, with increasingly more companies adopting technologies to make their businesses more efficient, the outdated art transport sector was slowing down sales conversion, which impacted the success of artists and all art market players alike. I’m sure many will tell you that fine art shipping is a frustrating experience, yet it represents the third largest spending category for art-related businesses.
– Tell us a few words about how the business developed?
Edouard Gouin: When we started a little over four years ago, it was just the two of us, to begin with, and we focused on antiques for local markets like the Battersea Antiques Fair and Puces-de-Saint-Ouen in Paris. We were able to offer optimised rates and a more streamlined process thanks to the digital technology we developed and gained traction with clients rapidly. From there, we assembled a team and worked our way up to more complicated transport requests. Now Convelio has more than 2000 clients and over 150 team members spread across Paris, London, and New York. We offered the art and design industry’s first online instant quoting solution and are now empowering some of the largest auction houses, art galleries, and art marketplaces across the globe by streamlining their logistics.
– What sets Convelio apart from other fine art shippers?
Edouard Gouin: After identifying the problems with the traditional transport system – like the time it takes to get a quote, the distributed players across the logistics chain, and the lack of visibility around pricing, we wanted to find a way to solve these problems and simplify the entire process. The vision was to develop a one-stop shop where customers could get instant and transparent shipping quotes with global coverage and customizable service options. By leveraging technology, we were able to create an algorithm that calculates the costs incurred at each step of the value chain. For example, if you want to ship an artwork from London to New York, it needs to be picked up, soft packed, crated, undergo customs clearance, freight, import, delivery, and installation. Rather than the end client having to involve two, three or sometimes even more suppliers to handle each step of the process, the algorithm combines all these different costs to provide a price instantly. This allows us to quote in seconds, move goods faster, and at transparent rates without compromising on quality.
We are now offering our instant quoting technology in the form of an API and other digital tools that can be integrated directly into a customer’s own website. By defining the new standards for fine art logistics, we act as a business enabler for our customers by providing responsive, tailored, and broader shipping services so that art-market players can flourish.
– What do you find most exciting about your business?
Edouard Gouin: There are so many facets of the business that are really exciting! We know that antique dealers, art galleries, and auction houses are key players in the art market and that their knowledge, expertise, and specialization are essential for the preservation of our common heritage. We are therefore proud to be supporting them in their logistics, ensuring that each and every piece – whether it is a painting from the Belle Epoque, 19th-century bronzes, or sculptures from the Renaissance – is treated with the care it requires.
Partnerships and cross-collaboration are also becoming increasingly more important in the art world and finding new ways to learn from and support each other are essential. For us, that means supporting companies with the shift to digital online buying. The pandemic has highlighted how important it is to integrate the e-commerce experience within the art world. Our instant quoting tool offers a level of price transparency which encourages customers to feel confident making a purchase online which they may not have otherwise done. We feel honored to be working with some of the biggest players in the art market and look forward to continuing to support many more with digitalization as we see this as a key component to future-proofing the industry.
Finally, we are so excited about the level of growth Convelio has achieved in a short period of time. Our US office is celebrating its one-year anniversary and we have team members in California, Italy, and Russia in addition to our main offices.
– Shipping artworks to and from Russia seems to be especially complicated, what are the top things collectors should know?
Edouard Gouin: That is a great question! There are several things that collectors should consider when shipping to Russia. Import taxes can be complex as the tax is assessed based on the item’s age, cultural value and provenance. Art such as paintings and sculptures that are deemed to have cultural value, have 0% import taxes as do items over 100 years old. If an item is assessed to have no cultural value then you face import taxes of 30% or 4 EUR/Kg, depending on which is higher.
It’s also required that artworks at customs are inspected specifically by an expert of the Ministry of Culture, who are often not based in Moscow, which has significantly increased clearance costs in the past year. The Ministry of Culture ultimately decides whether not something is considered of cultural significance so it is essential to have a customs broker who can support you. Your broker will need certain documents from you, such as a notarised POA (Power of Attorney) so be prepared to supply these things. Luckily, we at Convelio have an experienced Russian shipping specialist based in Russia who can support the customs process and advise on all import and export procedures.