Art Basel in Miami Beach gives us a world-class gallery of art, but there’s an art to protecting an investment in art at home as well
By Robyn A. Friedman
Planning to attend Art Basel in Miami Beach (Dec. 4-7) to add a few pieces to your art collection? Then you need to start thinking of how to protect that artwork even before you take it home.
“You don’t see stories in the news about a painting being damaged in transit, but that’s actually more commonplace than theft or storm damage,” says Michelle Impey, fine art director for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. “Collectors need to be concerned about all different types of exposures.”
Impey offers the following tips for protecting an art collection:
Hire professionals who specialize in shipping, installing and storing art. Make sure that everyone, from packers to installers, has specific expertise with art.
Select the right location for displaying your pieces. Pieces should be hung above any expected high-water line where they are not exposed to harmful UV light or humid conditions. Temperature or humidity fluctuations can lead to gradual deterioration.
Check the installation of your artwork periodically. Even though a painting might have been installed on your wall correctly, the installation hardware may need to be upgraded or replaced. Copper picture wire, for example, can deteriorate over time. Ongoing care and maintenance of your collection is essential.
Make sure your fire alarm system takes your art collection into account. By code, smoke detectors are placed near sleeping quarters, but that may be some distance from living areas where art is typically displayed. If a fire started in the living room, it may be some time before the smoke detector in the back bedroom goes off — and in that time a piece can be destroyed.
Learn how to properly clean around your pieces, and teach any housekeepers to do the same. Using window cleaner to dust a bronze sculpture can damage the patina, Impey says. Fumes from aerosol cleaning products can also damage nearby art.
Deter theft by using special security hardware that locks a painting to the wall. The only way to detach the painting is to use a special wrench.
Make sure you have adequate insurance to protect your collection. A standard homeowners insurance policy may not provide sufficient coverage; a high-value collections policy may be necessary. Keep your policy current with appraisals every few years. Inflation protection ensures that your investment is protected if values for the artist you’re collecting increase. According to Fireman’s Fund, for a $100,000 fine art item, the premium in Florida ranges from $100 to $200 per year depending on the piece itself and the residence.