Top 3 Art Insurance Claims and How to Prevent Them*

Jan 15, 2019

By: Erin Bast, Senior Underwriter at Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency, Inc., a division of Aon

It is commonly thought that art theft would be the most prevalent claim due to breaking headlines about bold art heists and movies such as the Thomas Crown Affair. However, ironically enough, theft claims are really rather rare. Instead, the majority and most common types of art claims can be bucketed into three categories: transit, peril and accidental damage.

Art on the move

The number one type of claim the art world experiences is damage of a work of art during transit. In fact, over the course of a year, transit is the cause of between 60% - 75% of all losses. While the safest place for art is on your wall, pieces do have to travel from time to time – from the dealer to your house, to a warehouse, etc. – leaving the piece vulnerable to damage while on the move. While dealers will do most of the shipping your art will experience, should you need to transport a piece, it’s advisable to spend a little extra money on professional fine art packers and shippers who are the true experts in making sure your art gets from location to location unscathed.

Fire, hurricanes and floods – oh my!

Peril events such as a fire, hurricane or flood are outside of your control and can cause a major loss if you’re not prepared. The number one recommendation to keep art safe is to have an emergency evacuation plan in place. Spend time thinking about and seek advice from the professionals on how you could move your art if there was a catastrophe. If disaster does strike and your art is damaged – say you didn’t have time to remove a piece of art before needing to evacuate for your own safety – know who the proper contacts are who will help mitigate your loss faster.

While a proactive plan is best, should you need to protect your art in a pinch, follow these two steps:

  • Move your art away from windows and into an interior closet
  • Quickly evaluate where your pieces are and if they’d be more susceptible to certain types of perils given where you live i.e. flood zones or fire-prone areas

Accidents do happen

Though much less common than transit and peril claims, accidental damage to art does happen and is mostly attributable to human error (and clumsiness). For example, a museum may file an accidental damage claim should a painting be damaged by someone taking a selfie, or by a private collector tripping and knocking over the sculpture on their coffee table at home. To protect art from these situations, having a solid team of adjustors, conservationists and a fine art insurance policy, is recommended.

If a fine art owner does have to file a claim there are ways to effectively manage the process. If you think your work of art has been damaged, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to your broker since many policies only have a handful of exclusions. By doing this you are putting yourself in a position to mitigate loss. Finally, being in touch with someone who understands your policy and has your art’s best interest at heart is the best way to stay protected.

*Based on the claims experience of the HTB program

Erin Bast is a Senior Underwriter at Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency, Inc., a division of Aon, the world’s premier insurance broker. With more than 1,200 museums, 800 art galleries, and some of the largest universities and Fortune 500 companies’ art collections insured, HTB is the world’s leading provider of insurance to the fine art community.

This article is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide individualized business, insurance or legal advice. You should discuss your individual circumstances thoroughly with your legal and other advisors before taking any action with regard to the subject matter of this article. Only the relevant insurance policy provides actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions, and exclusions for an insured.