Galleries : The Question Of Insuring Art
For the average art collector, the question of whether or not to insure art at home can be a difficult one.
Bill Rohr, owner of Helm Insurance in Vineyard Haven, believes the number one reason for appraising and insuring art is to avoid losing one's investment. A homeowner's policy can cover replacement costs, he says, but without getting an appraisal you aren't assured its full value. "The rule of thumb," Mr. Rohr says, "is to insure anything out of the ordinary that may carry a value."
Chris Morse, owner of The Granary Gallery in West Tisbury, agrees, but says the decision ultimately depends on personal preference. He explains it is difficult to assign a definitive amount at which to start insuring art, although he puts the "historical amount at around $5,000."
Photo by Katherine Fioridalis
Once the decision is made to insure, the steps to appraisal are relatively straightforward. After the art is taken to an insurance agent, it will be sent to an insurance company, which will find an estimate of its value. Once appraised, the art is "scheduled" - that is, added to the insurance policy. Appraisals are only valid if they are less than five years old.
According to Mr. Rohr, scheduling art is not expensive, though he notes, "It's not about the cost, and it's just knowing that you have a unique item that should be appraised."
And when you schedule a piece of art it's an all-risk policy: breakage is covered and there is no deductible. "A big plus," Mr. Rohr says, emphasizing the importance of no deductible. He also observes that fine art has no limitations in terms of insurance coverage, unlike jewelry, which has a $1,500 maximum insurance policy.
Current values can be deceiving, however. Dragonfly Gallery owner Holly Alaimo notes, "If you have the work of an artist who dies, and the value of the art then increases, you need to be able to document that artist and document how the value has risen."
Photo by Susan Safford
In terms of investing and insuring fine art, Ms. Alaimo suggests: Keep any sales receipts, take a photograph of the art and keep it in a security box, have an antique piece assessed by an antique evaluator, and when a piece is by an up-and-coming artist, collect information on that artist and add it to your insurance packet.
"It's always good to review the artwork in your collection annually," Mr. Morse says, and suggests walking around the house with a video camera to document possessions.
Ms. Alaimo seconds the idea. "A lot of people neglect taking real inventory, and are surprised about how much they have of value in art," she says.
The effort is little compared to the risk of losing a piece to theft or damage. "Damage is a really important part of insuring art," Ms. Alaimo says, recalling horror stories about house fires and pipes breaking during a winter freeze.
But even noting the advantages, most people don't insure their art. After all, it's impossible to replace a piece of art with its identical twin, an unfortunate fact of many endearing objects. Mr. Rohr explains, "The attitude is if it burns up, it's one of a kind," and adds that people are more likely to replace one piece of art with another.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Ms. Alaimo says she's surprised clients rarely inquire about insurance at her gallery, especially since an insured piece, if destroyed, "enables people to go out and look for something else they can bond with again."
While discussing how he ships his paintings, popular West Tisbury painter Allen Whiting says, "We can all get insured for everything, but it costs a lot. I am underinsured, but I am willing to take risks I wouldn't take with [the work of] other artists."
Mr. Morse admits that insuring an expensive painting through FedEx is so expensive it ultimately becomes impractical. In order to avoid the problem, Mr. Morse offers a customized blanket policy through an insurance company that covers art in transit and allows it to be insured from "an artist's easel to a client's wall." According to Mr. Morse, "The key to successful shipping is successful packaging. Artwork should be packaged such that it can sustain a fall from a truck."