Every artist should have art insurance. That may seem like a bold statement, but given the blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating a piece of art, why take a chance that a disaster will never strike?
Imagine your new sculpture is being shown at a prestigious art fair through a prominent art gallery, and something unimaginable occurs: a visitor walks up to your work and accidentally knocks it to the ground. This event actually took place at a Miami art fair, where a $42,000 sculpture from Jeff Koons’s “Balloon Dog” series was knocked over, breaking into pieces.
As expected, the gallery had art insurance just in case something like this happened, so the artist and gallery were compensated for the loss. The person who accidentally broke the piece did not have to pay for her mistake.
Insuring your art should be fundamental to any artist in the same way that incorporating your art business is essential to protect your assets should you get sued. With some investment, you can have safeguards in place should any damage or loss happen to your artwork.
While there are many types of insurance, artists should consider getting a policy that protects the artwork and equipment in their home or studio and shipping insurance whenever the artwork is being transported to a buyer, gallery, or other location.
Art Insurance for Studios and Workspaces
Suppose you are making money from your art beyond a certain threshold, usually exceeding $2,000 per year in revenue. An insurance company will consider the physical space used for creating the art and the place where you store your art as business-related. Suppose your studio or workspace is within your home, like a basement, bedroom, garage, or detached building. In that case, that area is likely considered your business premises and may not be covered by your regular homeowners or rental policy.
The misperception that homeowner’s insurance would cover the contents of art studios created severe hardships for many artists who lost their homes and studios in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, wildfires in 2016. Two teenage boys dropping lit matches on the popular Chimney Tops Trail started a fire exacerbated by strong winds, spreading to encompass over 15 miles of land. Fourteen people were killed and 200 injured, with over 2000 buildings destroyed, including many homes/studios of artists associated with the nearby Arrowmont Art School. Unfortunately, many artists lost their inventory of artwork and equipment, only to find that their homeowner’s policies did not cover the items.
Art insurance, like the Artist and Craft Insurance Policy offered by Zinc, includes both a commercial general liability policy and a business owners policy, or BOP, extending the coverage of your homeowner’s policy. The art insurance policy protects your art studio against losses of your physical business assets, such as your inventory or furnishings. It can also protect intangible assets such as specialized computer software.
Seth Zaremba, founder, and president of Zinc Insurance weighed in on the necessary basic coverage for artists whose work is not already covered by a third party’s insurance plan. “Artists should have an Inland marine policy that covers the value of their works, equipment, and supplies wherever they are located,” Zaremba explains. “Policies can be built to fit the per-item value as well as the total value of their work, equipment, and supplies.”
The policy can also pay for injuries at your studio’s premises. If a collector visits your studio and is accidentally hurt and they sue you, you are covered. Product liability is also covered, which pays for damages that occur because of something intrinsic to your art that ends up hurting someone. For example, you create a sculpture with sharp edges, and your customer severely cuts themselves, requiring an emergency room visit to the hospital. If they sue you for damages, you’re covered.
Protecting your Art During Shipping
Another art insurance policy covers your artwork from damage or loss during shipping. Many shippers, such as UPS, offer insurance for transported items, but it usually includes only a small amount of insurance, like $400. You can buy additional insurance, but that is also typically limited. For example, Fed Ex limits the maximum coverage for artwork to $1000.
Another issue is that UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, and large shippers won’t always pay the declared value but the repair, depreciated, or replacement costs, whichever is less. For example, I shipped a small multi-dimensional piece several years ago with Fed Ex. The work was being sent to an art fair, where it would be on sale for $1000. I paid extra for a $1000 declared value. The gallery received the piece, but it was damaged beyond repair. I filed a claim with Fed Ex to receive the declared value. However, because this was the first piece of a new series and I had no proof of value, such as the sales history, Fed Ex only paid for the cost of the materials.
On the other hand, shippers that specialize in transporting artwork will often provide insurance coverage for artwork at higher pricing levels and will pay for the total value if damaged or lost. These companies handle all aspects of shipping, coordinating retrieval, wrapping, packing, crating, ground or air transport, delivery, and unpacking as needed.
There are numerous national and international art shippers for more complex artworks or exhibition installations. However, they could be too expensive for lower-value artworks. You can work with lower-cost regional shippers for smaller, less expensive pieces and find a basic art shipping policy through an insurance company like Chubb or Travelers.
Buying Your Art Insurance Policy
When insuring art, it’s always helpful to get as many quotes as possible, and if you are looking for a specific shipping Policy, try to get quotes as far in advance as possible. While insurance can be secured as quickly as 24 hours in advance, the rates will likely reflect the short notice so that your request is prioritized.
Zaremba emphasizes the importance of working with knowledgeable insurance agents who can provide advice for your specific situation.“Part of building a policy is getting advice. If you got the right agent, take their advice regarding coverage and limits because insurance is an investment in your livelihood”, notes Zaremba. By building a timeline for securing insurance coverage, you’re more likely to narrow down the best agent to handle your art insurance policy instead of scrambling at the last minute to secure just any.
You understand your art the best. If the work is durable or not easily damaged, perhaps you want to seek out art insurance coverage that is relatively inexpensive. By dedicating your time to understanding the basics of art insurance and shipping, you will feel more confident your art and your livelihood are protected. You’ll be able to rely on trusted experts who can give advice that can change depending on a specific exhibition and shipping requirements. Your insurer and shipper are on your team: Make sure you select the best teammates to get your work where it needs to go so it can truly shine!
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