Today's post was written by our wonderful friend and business insurance guru, Chris Johnson. He's the owner of Johnsonese Brokerage in Chicago and has helped us tremendously over the years. He was kind enough to explain the process of obtaining insurance and also share some inside stories.
What are the general steps to getting art insured?
The biggest step is probably determining the value of the art to be insured. Collectors simply have their collections appraised. For an individual artist the process is a little more challenging because their art inventory is continually changing. So they need good records to document the value of their art. This can be copies of gallery contracts, for example, that list the consigned value of their artworks over time. Or if they sell directly, it can be sales records showing selling prices over time. For more established artists, it can be auction records or appraisal reports for specific works.
The next step is simply to find an insurance agent that understands the business of art. The insurance agent will work with the artist to determine what level of insurance coverage is appropriate for the artist. This is basically the highest dollar value of artworks that you might have at your studio (or elsewhere) at any given time. You also need to be concerned with coverage for your artworks while in-transit. Most art insurance policies have a separate, and usually lower, sub-limit for coverage of art while it is being shipped. The limit should be high enough to cover the highest value of art that you would include in any one shipment. Think of how much you might ship for a gallery show or art fair, not just individual artworks being shipped to buyers.
You also need to think about international coverage. The typical policy provides coverage in the US and Canada. If you will be selling internationally or participating in international art fairs, you should add international coverage.
What are some of the types of clients you insure?
In the Fine Art world, we insure galleries and private dealers, auction houses, corporate and private collections, framers and conservators, and individual artists. We also insure traveling museum exhibits, which I think can be the most fun because we sometimes get to see the exhibits before the general public.
Share an awesome art story disaster with us!
You won’t be surprised to learn that Charles Saatchi is not my client. But I can’t help finding the story of the demise of his Marc Quinn sculpture a little amusing. The sculpture was made from the artist’s own frozen blood, so Saatchi had it kept in a freezer. During maintenance at his house the power was disrupted and the sculpture melted. The darkly amusing part to me is that Saatchi is married to celebrity cook Nigella Lawson. So I can’t help imagining this work of art melting all over some amazing dinner that Nigella had whipped up for a party.
But for my real clients, the day to day claims are things like water damage, damage in shipment, damage during installation or packing, and even red wines spills at gallery openings. I did have a gallery client experience a pretty major loss when there was a fire two floors above them. The fire was quickly contained on the higher floor, but about half of my client’s inventory was water damaged. I had another client have sewage back-up literally in their gallery. Most of the work was high enough that the damage was limited, but still expensive.
Who are your favorite artists?
I like and collect a few local artists who aren’t well known. But to have some fun name dropping, probably my favorite living Chicago artists are Karl Wirsum and Theaster Gates. In looking at all of art history, I have eclectic tastes. I like El Greco, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman.
But if I could own any artwork in the world, I might choose Picasso’s Guernica.
Thank you, Chris, for sharing your expertise on taking care of our investments! You don't have to be in Chicago for him to help you. See the full list of licensed states here. To contact him about your own collection or business, call 773.857.0242 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnson is a licensed insurance producer with a background in corporate finance, business planning, technology commercialization, project management and international business. Johnson focuses on serving clients in the arts community, building on his four year experience as director of a contemporary fine art gallery in Chicago. During this time he was also a founding member of a neighborhood gallery association, and he completed a Certificate of Connoisseurship in Fine & Decorative Arts at Northwestern University. In his insurance practice Johnson works closely with art galleries, antique dealers and framers to protect and build their businesses.