You Just Bought a Painting at Art Basel. Now What?

You Just Bought a Painting at Art Basel. Now What?

The works of art for sale at Art Basel Miami Beach range from small paintings to large scale sculptures. But buying art is just the start. Then comes the work of transporting, protecting, and displaying it. Insurers such as Chubb underwrite insurance coverage for a wide range of art objects and have a team of specialists with degrees and advanced training in art and collectibles who can provide Chubb clients with advice about mitigating risks and preserving their collections, at no additional cost. 

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Keep your valuables protected  

Art can be insured under valuable articles policies. Chubb’s valuable articles policy provides all-risk, worldwide coverage for losses including breakage, fire, flood, theft, or even mysterious disappearance, with no deductible. Existing Chubb policyholders have automatic coverage for newly-acquired art for up to 90 days, providing peace of mind until items are added to the policy. For those without a policy, an independent agent or broker can help provide a quote.  

Dangers in transportation 

Most losses occur in transit, making professional art handlers essential for packing and crating. Consider, for example, a collector who was told by the general carrier he used that the sculpture he purchased overseas and was shipping to his home was lost and could not be located. Or the collector who used a general contents moving company to transport a high-value painting only to see the work arrive with bubble wrap stuck to the acrylic paint and surface scratches from not being properly packed and secured within the truck. Chubb’s specialists can advise on packing best practices and can connect clients with best-in-class transporters. If the artwork needs to travel a long distance, it’s important to confirm whether the shipper will use a subcontractor – and if so, ensure all trucks follow the same protective measures such as air-ride suspension, climate controls, GPS tracking, and alarms, with two drivers so trucks are not unattended. 

Insurance coverage should be in place for artwork before transit as shippers usually don’t insure artwork that is in their custody. If the item is particularly high value, consider hiring an art conservator to complete a condition report before and after delivery. 

Displaying your collection  

Once the artwork is delivered, allow the art storage crate 24 hours to acclimatize before opening, especially if the work is moving from a hot and humid place, like Miami, to a cooler climate. The elements can impact artwork, so special care is needed.  

Work with a professional art handler to install the work and provide guidance on ideal display conditions. Here are some of the factors to consider: 

Critical climate controls 

If the artwork is to be displayed at home, take steps to ensure a stable climate in the home. Rapid changes in temperature and humidity can damage works, and this type of damage may not be covered by insurance. 

Sometimes, temperature changes can be hard to detect. Exterior walls with missing insulation, hot water pipes, fireplace flues, or HVAC vents can all cause small temperature fluctuations that can lead to damage over time. Chubb’s team can use infrared cameras to help identify locations away from these potentially harmful exposures.  

Damage through sunlight and water 

Works on paper, photographs, and textiles are particularly susceptible to UV exposure and should not be displayed in direct sunlight. Fading due to sun exposure is considered “gradual deterioration” and would not be a covered loss. For extra protection, works should be framed behind UV glass or plexiglass. Chubb’s team can consult on the placement of artwork, so as to avoid direct sun exposure, and can also advise on how to protect artwork against water damage, such as installing a water leak detection system. 

Keeping art safe 

Other precautions to consider: Installing alarm systems with motion detection plus contacts and glass-break sensors on perimeter doors and windows, including those on the second floor, as well as smoke detectors for early detection of a fire. Having extra security through centrally monitored alarms could help lower insurance costs. 

In some locations, such as California, seismic hardware is advisable. If you plan to store your new purchase rather than to display it, use a dedicated fine art storage facility with experienced art handlers on staff and enhanced environmental and security controls. 

Regular upkeep  

Preserving artwork requires regular upkeep. Hire a conservator to do regular condition checks. Work with a professional art installer to check and replace the installation hardware, including picture hooks and wires, which can deteriorate and loosen over time. Also, implement security measures to prevent accidental damage, including educating household staff on proper care for the items. 

Keep an inventory of all artwork with the accompanying documentation, such as invoices, certificates, artist fact sheets, and appraisals. These documents are part of an artwork’s provenance and are important in case of a loss, future appraisals, or a prospective sale. 

Have the works appraised regularly so the values listed on the insurance policy are in line with the market. Chubb generally recommends obtaining updated appraisals every three to five years. For newer works, such as those by postwar or contemporary artists, it might be more appropriate to have appraisals every one to three years. In more dynamic markets, prices can move fast. 

Securing and maintaining artwork takes a comprehensive approach. As the leading insurer of successful families in the US, Chubb offers tailored insurance coverage and claims handling and was independently selected as a top art insurer by ARTnews in the Top 75 Professionals edition.

The article “You Just Bought a Painting at Art Basel. Now What?” by Jack Lugo was published on 01/10/2024 by