Curiosity. Inspiration. Surprise. Everyone’s response to a piece of fine art is unique—and could even change from moment to moment. Experiencing art is something that’s deeply personal, while connecting us with others across time through a shared encounter. It’s dynamic; almost alive. “Without art,” claimed art historian Konrad Fiedler, “the view of the world would be incomplete.”
That’s why it’s so important to protect the artwork in your care, whether you’re managing a corporate collection, an antique dealership, art gallery, museum, or educational or cultural institution. One could say that your organization, by housing fine art and putting it on display, is a steward of the human experience. This responsibility is best met through an ongoing process of careful assessment, risk management, planning, and insuring.
Consider these steps to safeguard your fine arts valuables—or invaluables—so they can be shared with peace of mind and enjoyed by generations to come.
1) Manage Risks
Aside from their significance for humanity, fine art or antique collections are invaluable investments. Theft can result in heartbreaking loss. The FBI Art Theft Program estimates the value of worldwide art theft is between $4 and $6 billion annually.
It’s critical to physically safeguard your collection, and surrounding areas, with a quality security system. Even if you’ve already made investments in this area, make sure your bases are covered:
- Protect every point of entry to detect break-ins as they happen
- Install motion sensors to trigger prohibited activity
- Consider attaching alarms to artwork, if practical
- Use video surveillance inside and outside of the property or room where items are housed
- Ensure efforts are conspicuous to dissuade would-be thieves from even trying
Knowing who is coming and going, in and around the property, helps protect employees, visitors, and tangible business assets. But if there are valuables on display, it becomes even more important to be aware of who may have access to them. This includes contractors, property managers and staff, and employees’ guests.
It’s also best practice to keep a detailed written and digital (photographic and/or video) inventory of items. Regularly “take stock” of items, especially those in storage. This may help to recover them if they’re damaged or stolen. Taking this effort a step further, consider registering your fine art pieces on the Art Loss Register, which is a private database of lost and stolen art, antiques and collectables.
For ideas about proper care and handling of fine art, visit Art-Collecting.com.
2) Create a Disaster Recovery Plan
Have a plan in place in case of an emergency. Address potential hazards at your property as well as what may happen while items are in transit, on exhibition in multiple locations, or offsite on loan or repair. Needless to say, a flood, fire, tornado, power outage, or other incident can result in significant damage to your treasure trove of valuables. Anything from prolonged exposure to elements to even small amounts of moisture, heat, light, or air can impact your art works’ condition or value.
Building An Emergency Plan, a guide for museums and other cultural institutions from the Getty Conservation Institute, outlines the key measures that should be covered by an emergency plan:
- Prevent: Reduce hazards’ potential effects on staff and visitors, on the collection, and on other assets.
- Prepare: Equip personnel to handle an emergency (e.g. create emergency telephone lists, stockpile supplies, and train staff and volunteers how to use them).
- Respond: Prevent injury and limit losses after the event by training staff and volunteers to safely evacuate visitors, colleagues, collections, and records.
- Recover: Prepare and train staff to carry out the process that returns operations to normal.
Specialized industry consultants can be hired to help you create and deploy an emergency plan. In addition to helping assess your fine arts collection and emergency recovery needs before an incident strikes, they can be counted on to pack up damaged pieces, remove at-risk objects, and document losses in the event that they occur. They can also facilitate repair and restoration of items.
For additional information about disaster prevention and preparedness, explore the resources provided by The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works’ Heritage Emergency Programs.
3) Adequately Insure Your Fine Arts Collection
Don’t assume that your existing property policy is sufficient to cover your potential losses. In the aftermath of damage or theft, you’ll want to be sure you’re entitled to fair and market-valued compensation—especially with assets that are rare or one-of-a-kind. Getting the right level of coverage will require a thorough, tailored valuation of your collection. An insurance agent can expertly guide you toward specialized insurance products designed to meet your specific needs.
Your insurance agent can help you establish a risk management strategy that can best protect your collection and your business. To find an agent near you, visit our agent locator.