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  • Writer's pictureVan Weyenbergh Fine Art

Theft or accidents to your artwork? Insurance is not expensive

1/ Art can be insured

"What is imposed by conventional insurance contracts is not adapted to the realities of the art world", explains Hadrien Brissaud, co-founder in 2016, with Édouard Bernard, of the brokerage company Appia Art & Assurance. Both amateurs and collectors, the two partners, are exclusively dedicated to the insurance of works of art, collectibles, and exhibition spaces. By negotiating with large insurance companies such as AXA Art, Hiscox, Allianz, Helvetia, and Liberty, they develop tailor-made contracts for their customers: many galleries and auctioneers, but also individuals and a few institutions prestigious private companies, such as the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris (MAD).

1/ Any object is insurable

Statuettes and masks of tribal art, African and Oceanic, Rembrandt paintings, paintings of the XVIIth. and XVIIIth centuries, modern and contemporary art, stamps, watches, jewelry, vintage posters, design pieces, classic cars. Appia Art & Assurance ensures all kinds of works and objects. From a simple pen that belonged to General de Gaulle to modern art paintings with a unit value of 40 million.

3/ Transportation is the number one cause of accidents

The most frequent case faced by insurers? Works damaged during transport. Broken glass, torn canvas. "Very often it is because of the carrier or insufficient packaging. Most of these accidents take place upon arrival at the fair. It's the excitement, cranes, and forklifts are busy in all directions. One day, a painting was even pierced by a Fenwick! says Hadrien Brissaud. It also happened that, manipulated by the teams of an auctioneer, an old mirror broke just after the hammer confirmed its sale at 20,000 euros! "

4/ Thefts are more frequent than we think

"Theft is the second most frequent cause. Out of a total of 500 clients, we are confronted with around 10 cases per year. There are many in galleries, on fair stands and in auction houses, but also private homes, secondary houses, and storage boxes. Small formats and small sculptures, easy to slip into a pocket, are the most subtle. Gallery owners are therefore asked to fix them or put them in a showcase. In 2008, four paintings signed Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Edgar Degas, with a total value of 112 million euros, were stolen from the Emil Georg Bührle Foundation (Zurich) by armed thugs; then eventually found by the police. "In these cases, explains Hadrien Brissaud, the owner must return the money to the insurer or leave the work to him. "

5/ A champagne cork can be fatal.

Accidents in everyday life: works that drop out because of a tired nail, or accidentally hit on an exhibition stand. But also water damage or a glass spilled during a cocktail. In February 2019, a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat at 110 million dollars had been badly damaged on a yacht, bombed with grain by the children of its owner! Unaware of its value and what to do, the staff had made matters worse by wiping it down with a cloth. To avoid embedding a champagne cork in a Pablo Picasso (true) and other such dramas, staff awareness courses are now offered. To extend to family and guests.

6/ It is not so expensive to insure your artworks.

If the price varies depending on the works and the risks involved - a famous prominent gallery will be more exposed than a small sign hidden at the end of a courtyard - the cost of insurance for a collection is relatively low compared to his value. "For a collection of two million euros, the annual premium to be paid could be (depending on the nature of the collection) around 4000 euros. In the event of theft of artwork for 100,000 euros, compensation would then amount to 25 years of insurance premium," underlines Hadrien Brissaud. The stake is thus worth the candle. Especially since Appia Art & Insurance offers a minimum premium for young collectors: 200 euros annually, for a collection worth 50,000 euros. "For the most precious works, we can ask for documents attesting to their origin and their value.

7/ The insurer also covers its back.

With flair, the company AXA Art had refused to insure the Bürhle Foundation shortly before the 2008 flight, deeming the security devices too thin. "The contracts also provide for exclusions for certain situations," explains Hadrien Brissaud. The works are insured in all risks, except if the claim arises from a proper defect of the work or if it is due to negligence on the part of the owner. We also take precautions when requesting that the parts be transported by plane because the boat presents too many dangers". Except for works by Korean artist Lee Ufan, because they were large, not very fragile stones. "When we insured works of contemporary art installed on a yacht, the contract excluded any compensation in the event of salt corrosion, storm or shipwreck.

8/ Vandalism is covered, not "natural" degradation.

In 2007, a woman had, in a burst of artistic ecstasy, embraced a work of Cy Twombly, smearing the white canvas with a trace of lipstick. Exhibited at the Lambert Collection (Avignon), the painting was part of a triptych insured for 2 million euros. The restoration costs were covered by the company concerned, which did not prevent the collector from suing the vandal for other compensation. On the other hand, no compensation is provided in the event of "natural" deterioration, such as wear and tear due to the passage of visitors authorized to touch or climb a work, or even the metal rod of a Tinguely mobile, which ends up twist under the weight of years. "One day, a sculpture, made of a special metal very sensitive to heat, melted in its box, in the sun on a tarmac. This was not covered: it was up to the artist and the gallery owner to provide suitable packaging! "

9/ No insurance for the "Mona Lisa"!

What about public collections? When Claude Monet's Pont d'Argenteuil (1874) was torn apart by a drunk intruder at the Musée d'Orsay in 2007, France had to assume the costs of restoration. And when a ball of papier-mâché landed on a Vassily Kandinsky at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, the City paid the bill. Because, unlike private museums, the state does not pay insurance. The cause? Too many artworks, and too high a value. No one could afford priceless paintings such as Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci! All that remains is to invest in security. On the other hand, when an organizer borrows a work from the State for an exhibition, whether in a private or public place, he has the obligation to insure this work in transport and stay.

10/ Contemporary art and brush do not mix

In 2015, an installation made up of bottles of champagne and confetti, taken for the remains of a sprayed opening, had been loaded into garbage bags by the cleaning staff of a museum of modern Italian art. In 2014, it was a work of 10,000 euros by the American Paul Branca, consisting of papers and pieces of cookies, which had been thrown away. Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, and Gustav Metzger have also paid the price for such errors. "In these cases, the artists are compensated. But that underlines the importance of keeping staff well informed beforehand," recalls the co-founder of Appia Art & Assurance. Fortunately, contemporary works (especially if it is a simple taped banana) are often easier to restore than a master painting. Like this 50,000 euro plastic fly, broken by a young girl on an Art Basel stand in 2019, but repaired for three times nothing. Much to the relief of the parents!

Beaux Arts

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