insuring artwork
Art Business

What Every Artist Should Know About Shipping and Insuring Artwork

Accidents happen, but there’s a reason the proverbial bull is in the fine china shop: When artwork gets broken, the tab can run into the six- and seven- figure mark. Ensuring that the right artwork insurance is in place to mitigate the effects of any possible damage is a key element of exhibiting with a space.

Imagine walking into a museum for the opening of a world-class artist, the air full of excitement, only to witness something unimaginable: a visitor from the crowd walking up to a priceless vase and throwing it onto the ground. This event actually took place at the Perez Art Museum Miami in 2013, where a Ming vase that was part of an installation by artist Ai Wei Wei was irrevocably destroyed to the tune of roughly $1 million.

If this incident can occur in a world-class museum, this begs the question: How can you be sure the gallery or space where you are exhibiting is prepared to deal with a potentially damaging scenario? How can a loss of this caliber be recouped? While not the most exciting of art topics, properly shipping and insuring your artwork in a responsible manner is a necessary step. Not only does doing so show that you value your work, it also confirms that you will not be forced to suffer further losses should any unexpected incidents occur

Protections in place in an exhibition space are important, but that isn’t the only factor when considering protecting your artwork: How the artwork gets transported and whether its insured during transport to the space is another critical aspect. Below, we’ll look at the crucial points to be aware of when shipping and insuring artwork or working with partners who are responsible for making sure your work arrives at its target location without any hitches.

artwork insurance
By partnering with a mover who comprehensively understands the ins and outs of transport and insurance for artists, you’ll be better placed to respond to events as they arise.

Shipping Artwork Into the World – The Fine Print

When considering the process for shipping artwork and how the art will arrive at the exhibition site, know that the type of shipping can set the tone for how your work is treated. By partnering with a mover who comprehensively understands the ins and outs of transport and insurance for artists, you’ll be better placed to respond to events as they arise. Considering the costs you’re likely to accrue, it can make sense from a business perspective to want to save money by selecting a small moving operation; perhaps one with very little insurance coverage, or even none. Conversely, with a larger shipping budget, there is more potential to have higher coverage available and a more comprehensive scope of services provided. How can you find the right vendor that meets your needs while not skimping on the necessities that will protect your art?

The real determination to be made is how much hands-on administrative work do you want to engage with in insuring and shipping artwork. If the answer is zero, the best solution is to contact a full-service art shipping company. These organizations handle all aspects of shipping, coordinating retrieval of artwork, wrapping, and packing of artwork, crating as necessary, ground or air transport, and delivery and unpacking as needed. They also offer or understand the nuances of art transport insurance, and can refer you in the right direction. For more complex artworks or exhibition installations, this is the most effective option. However, what if you’re sending two or three works a short distance for a group exhibition? What’s the best plan for your budget in a scenario where the work isn’t likely to be damaged but you still want to be covered in case of any incidental mistreatment?

Sometimes, it’s possible to be covered under the insurance policy of an exhibition site, under a certificate of insurance (COI) from an exhibition space. If this isn’t possible, the best bet is to link up with low-cost regional or location-specific movers and to find a basic domestic policy that will cover the works up to the right price point pertaining to the artwork’s value.

For example, in the transportation industry, the standard insurance amount for clients remains sixty cents per pound. If the value of the artwork is low relative to its size, this general liability may be enough to have you covered. However, if this is not the case (which is more likely) you’ll want to contract a transport company that can add your work under the purview of their insurance plan. AnR Transport, a fine art shipping company with a strong domestic art shuttle presence, notes that their services  “are able to insure most shipments through our fine art policy for a fee and can add anyone as additional insured..allowing us to enter any building in the United States [with this art shipment].” This clear-cut and precise language is the type of message artists should seek from their shippers.

Insuring Artwork: The Basics

Perhaps you want to transport the artwork yourself to the site, confident that you know your work best and that no damage is likely to occur. This is viable, of course, but as there are always factors outside of your control, and your artwork is best insured once it is destined to leave the studio. Seth Zaremba, an insurance expert with Zinc Insurance, weighed in on the basic necessary 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.”

When planning in advance for insuring artwork, it’s always helpful to ask for as many 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. Another main concern when insuring artwork is working with insurance agents who are knowledgeable vendors able to provide advice for your specific situation.

shipping artwork
By building out a timeline for securing insurance coverage, you’re more likely to narrow down the best agent to handle insuring artwork instead of scrambling at the last minute to secure just any insurance.

“Part of building a policy is getting advice. If you got the right agent, take their advice when it comes to coverage and limits because insurance is an investment in your livelihood,” notes Zaremba. By building out a timeline for securing insurance coverage, you’re more likely to narrow down the best agent to handle insuring artwork instead of scrambling at the last minute to secure just any insurance – which may leave you with the incorrect coverage after all is said and done.

At the end of the day, you understand your art the best. If the work is resilient or not easily damaged, perhaps you want to seek out basic art insurance coverage that will meet your needs without being expensive or excessive. Zaremba details the necessary coverage that will get your art where it needs to be and be sufficient to handle any excessive damage. “If you need to cut costs, think about a basic general liability and a low-limit inland marine policy,” he says. Securing the lowest coverage needed for your work will be cost-effective: the main concern is to make sure that the coverage is sufficient for you.

By dedicating your time to understanding the basics of art shipping and insuring artwork from the start, you will be better prepared and feel more confident that you are well equipped to protect your art and your livelihood. Once you get the basics nailed down, the process for insuring artwork will become second nature over time. You’ll be able to rely on trusted experts within your network who can give advice on the nitty-gritty that can change depending on a specific exhibition and shipping requirements. At the end of the day, your insurer and your 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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About the author

Audra Lambert

Audra Lambert is an independent curator and art critic based in New York, NY. The founder of Antecedent Projects (2014), a sustainable urban curatorial consultancy investigating site-specific heritage, and is Editor-in-Chief, ANTE. Mag. Lambert manages ART360 by Orangenius, an immersive, 3-D art viewing experience, and serves as Managing Editor, Artrepreneur.

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