Protecting Your Fine Art

Van Gogh Sunflowers (detail)

Van Gogh Sunflowers (detail)

We start collecting things as kids: flowers, leaves, pennies, autographs, music. It seems to be human nature, and, as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Collectors are happy people.” Now that we’re all grown up, some of us have moved on to collecting very valuable things such as jewelry, wine, cars and artwork. And instead of gluing our treasures into a scrapbook, taking care of them has become a bit more complicated.

Buying Fine Art

Say you’re at an art fair and see a piece of artwork that you must have. What should you consider?

Do I have insurance for fine art?

Wealthy & Wise newsletter (March 2012)

Read more about insuring and caring for fine art in our Wealthy & Wise newsletter

Yes… and no. If you have a standard homeowners insurance policy, you have some coverage for fine art, but the policy limits and scope of coverage are likely inadequate. A separate collections policy is your best bet: coverage is on an “all risk” basis, usually worldwide and while items are in transit.

OK, so I’ve purchased an item on a Saturday and I can’t reach my agent until Monday. Now what?

Reputable dealers have fine art insurance for their inventory that can include items sold but not yet delivered. Check with the seller to be sure this is in place, and get it in writing! Then be sure to unpack and look over your new treasure as soon as it arrives, because once delivered it is all yours to insure.

When should I let my insurance agent know about my new purchase?

It’s best to do this as soon as possible. If you already have a fine art policy in place, the policy probably provides limited coverage for newly acquired items. But better to be safe; call your agent right away.

Shipping Fine Art

If collecting artwork has moved beyond aesthetics and become an investment, then you are probably buying and selling. Once you begin to ship valuable fine arts, they are at greater risk of loss. Here are a few tips:

  • Know your seller – Do they use shippers that you trust?
  • Know your art shipper – Do they subcontract out to others?
  • Minimize time in transit – Get that shipment to its final destination quickly. The longer it is out of your control, the greater the risk.
  • Know who to contact to track your shipment – If something goes wrong, you want to be able to reach the right person quickly.
  • Make sure your coverage is in place from start to finish – Let your agent know your plans well in advance of the shipping date.

Caring for Fine Art

And for the fine arts that grace your home, Asset Archives, Inc. offers these loss prevention tips:

Artwork & Photos

Paintings and photos are prone to damage from light, heat and humidity, so keep them in rooms that are, ideally, 68° F (20° Celsius)  to avoid these dangers. Don’t hang them above a fireplace, on walls that receive sunlight or in moisture-prone washrooms.


Don’t use furniture oil. Use a paste wax such as Renaissance once a year. Dust should be removed with a soft brush or cloth—lightly moistened with water if the piece requires a more thorough cleaning.


If your rug is in a high-traffic area or receives sunlight, turn it annually to ensure a consistent appearance.

Many of us have fond memories of trading baseball cards or showing off autographs that we collected. We treasured our collections, and perhaps we’ve still got them tucked away in the attic. Today, our collections might be quite different, but we treasure them all the same. We just need to view them with a grown-up’s eye, and take precautions to safeguard them the best we can.


Sharon Kimmel

Sharon Kimmel

Guest blogger Sharon Kimmel is the Quality Assurance & Compliance Officer of Willis Personal Lines. As part of National Operations, Sharon is responsible for training and WEM compliance for personal lines across the United States. Her last post for WillisWire was U.S. Personal Lines Insurance Premiums up by 6% in 2012.

Blair Leake, Jasmine Beatty, Barbara Corvino, and Milissa Malloy of Asset Archives Inc. contributed their invaluable expertise to this post and the Wealthy & Wise newsletter mentioned above.

About Sharon Kimmel

Sharon Kimmel is the Quality Assurance & Compliance Officer of Willis Personal Lines. As part of national opera…
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