Chasing a Booming Art Market in East Asia, Shipping Company Crozier Expands to Hong Kong

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As the market continues to swing east, fine art shipping and logistics company Crozier is expanding into Asia with the acquisition of Integrated Fine Arts Solution (IFAS), a leading storage company and art installation based in Hong Kong.

Describing the move as a “pivotal moment” in Crozier’s 46-year history, Simon Hornby, the company’s managing director for Europe and Asia, notes that there has been a significant increase in sea freight shipping to Hong Kong.

Earlier this year, the company partnered with Christie’s to send a number of bespoke containers aboard ships sailing between New York and London once a month and London and Hong Kong every two months. According to Hornby, the London-Hong Kong route sold out within 24 hours. “It’s about customers being able to rely on consistent service,” he says.

The Hong Kong expansion will also allow Crozier to expand its business into other parts of Asia, including Seoul and Singapore. Crozier is one of Frieze Seoul’s official shippers and, according to Hornby, the company has “a number of galleries that ship from London and a few galleries from New York, but interestingly Hong Kong to Seoul.”

While there has been undeniable growth in the Asian art market, there have also been obstacles, particularly in Hong Kong, which has been subject to increased political control from Beijing as well as strict restrictions on Covid. They are only now relaxed. Nonetheless, Hornby says, “We still see Hong Kong’s role as a primary gateway – into China and out of China. The Hong Kong dollar is still tied to the US dollar, the legal system is still based on English law. We have no reason to believe that will change in the next 20 to 30 years.

Indeed, Crozier’s expansions (the company now operates in 30 locations across 11 hubs in the United States, Europe and Asia) can be seen as an indicator of how the art market is developing. Founded in New York in 1976 by Bob Crozier, the company thrived on the East Coast, acquiring a number of other businesses before branching out to the West Coast. After moving to Switzerland, acquiring practices in Zurich and Geneva, Crozier opened about three years ago in London.

In November, it will open a facility in Paris, which will use electric vehicles. Hornby says the move is “not entirely” a result of Brexit, although it “certainly accelerated what our clients needed in Paris”. Access between London and Paris has become “very, very active”, he adds.

The climate-controlled storage won’t be ready in time for the new Paris+ fair by Art Basel, which opens in late October, but Hornby notes that Crozier “will have resources in place to support galleries coming to Paris for this event.” Going forward, the company will “use Paris as an additional hub on an ongoing basis.”

Crozier’s recent growth partly reflects customer demand for more environmentally friendly transportation options. Additionally, with the skyrocketing cost of fuel, shipping is increasingly seen as a more affordable alternative, saving up to 25% on the cost of air freight.

As Hornby says, “What we find is that people are happy to receive their art in six weeks, rather than the instant gratification of receiving it in 48 hours. More and more people are now making this decision because they understand that not only is it profitable, but in the longer term it needs to be part of our industry’s model to reduce our carbon impact.

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