Private collections are often the backbone of major institutions
It’s no mystery that many of our museum experiences are led by visionary collectors who have either made significant donations or opened new museums to exhibit their extensive art collections.
Take the Whitney, for example, which was established to house Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s collection of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, or the Menil Collection in Houston—these museums were specifically founded to house and exhibit works from private art collections.
This trend is currently on the rise, too, where 125 private museums have been opened since 2006.
If you’re a collector, you might be thinking about ways to preserve your collection and share the pieces that you find significant with others in the future. Keep the following art professionals in your network, and your collection can make a lasting impression.
Art collectors often shape contemporary art history because of their unique decisions and thoughtful connections with other art enthusiasts and market players.
To understand the full impact collectors have on contemporary art history, we have to also see how the collector is established among the following network of art professionals.
Artists create the goods
From the blood, sweat, tears, and talent of this passionate community comes the work worth preserving and passing on. Artists are the stars here. They inspire, educate, and entertain audiences with their unique abilities and gripping perspectives on the world around them.
Collectors recognize the value that such vibrant artists bring to communities, and they are in a position to ignite interest for a particular artist’s oeuvre.
This investment helps artists continue their work, build their reputation, and allow them to evolve and create even more value.
Art historians connect people, methods, and materials along a timeline
Much of our understanding of historical artworks in museums come from art historians, who are responsible for knowing the larger social, cultural and political powers that influence art’s role in society.
Art historians undergo years of university training and research to understand art’s influence on people. They understand techniques, methods and materials to judge the quality of a painting and its historical significance. And, they validate an artwork’s value, ultimately influencing a work of art’s lifetime market value.
For collectors, art historians provide evidence and insight into a collection’s significance. Having a deeper understanding of historical influences on contemporary art will help collectors invest wisely, while it also contributes important questions and discussion among art historians and audiences.
Curators help reveal art’s deeper meaning and context
Curators help us interpret an art collection by organizing a selection of works, its venue and the context in which its grouping illustrates a certain concept. By doing so, they help audiences see artwork from different perspectives, working to spark new discussions about art and its meaning.
A curator can work with collectors to assemble thematic exhibitions. This relationship between a curator and collector is mutually beneficial—each discovering new artists and opening up new opportunities to engage the public.
Museums display art and ensure its legacy
With the personnel and expertise needed to accomplish their mission, museums set the standard for art history. Their programs influence ways the public can interact with art, and for collectors, provide opportunities to present their invested efforts to research, acquire, and care for artworks.
But, because museums follow strict standards, art professionals debate the advantages and disadvantages to acquiring or exhibiting selections from private collections.
Art critic Robert Storr argues, “Those works are hostage to that particular collector’s vanity, and the public can only see them under certain circumstances.” Because a collector has a certain passion or point of view for his or her collection, it can limit museum staff’s ability to maintain the museum’s responsibility. He asserts that curators need to “shuffle the decks regularly, rewrite art history on the walls, and make comparisons” that advance historical discourse.
On the other side, however, donations are often a museum’s primary source for acquiring significant pieces for its collection.
“The public is exposed to more first-class art than ever, and collectors can maintain control of their artwork, challenge the status quo, create unique exhibitions and transform society.”
Corporate Collectors make art accessible to more people
In the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy and Wall Street giant David Rockefeller both recognized the value artists bring to communities, and they led movements to support artists and encourage collectors to invest in the community. As a result, more businesses started corporate art collections and sponsored large-scale museum exhibitions, making the arts more accessible to the public.
Now, corporate collectors place art in our common, everyday lives, promoting artists and styles through marketing channels and sponsorships. The relationship between museums and businesses is vital on a global scale.
Private Collectors observe trends in art and, at times, ignite a craze for it
“It’s mostly the collectors—not museums—who revel in the intrinsic quality of objects and the personal experience of them … I think it’s one of the greatest experiences available to American audiences that in some museums around the country, you can share that.”
Art lovers—collectors among them—support an artist’s endeavor, trusting that the artist’s talents and intuition will bring something new to light. As past initiatives to fund the arts have proven, communities thrive when the arts are thriving.
Art Insurance Is Your Defense Against the Unexpected
Like homeowners insurance or health insurance, although no one wants an earthquake or a broken leg, it’s imperative to be prepared.
We consulted two art insurance specialists, and both had horror stories to tell. Things like pencils going through paintings and red wine glasses flying onto canvases. Interestingly enough, in each case the art collector came to the insurer after the incident looking for a restoration expert and art insurance coverage.
The problem with getting a painting insured after a pencil rips a hole through it is—you won’t get a dime of reimbursement for the restoration or the lost value of your piece.
Consider these questions as your starter kit to properly insuring your art collection:
1. Does My Homeowners Insurance Protect My Art Collection?
One of the first questions people ask is: "Does my homeowners insurance cover my artwork?" Homeowners insurance covers your valuables subject to your deductible and coverage limits.
“Some people think that their homeowners insurance will cover [fine art],” Edwards explains, “but if you don’t have a separate policy, and think it’s covered under your homeowners insurance, you need to check the exclusions.” It’s possible to buy special coverage for specific items such as pieces of art, which would cover them for their most recently appraised value. This is something you need to do your due diligence on as an art collector.
“A homeowner’s policy is normally not as sophisticated as a specific fine art insurance policy,” Fleischer explains. “They have a lot more restrictions and a lot more underwriting. As the art market has gotten so much more sophisticated, a homeowner’s policy is not the ideal place to put your coverage.”
2. What are the Advantages of Working with a Separate Fine Art Insurance Company?
“The advantage of working with a broker who actually specializes in fine art insurance is that we work on behalf of the client and not the company,” Edwards clarifies. “There is a personalized attention when working with a broker who is working on your behalf.”
Art Insurance specialists are also more experienced in creating policies to protect your art collection and knowing how to help in claim situations. When you make a claim with an art insurance specialist, you collection is going to be taken very seriously. With a common homeowner’s insurance policy, your art collection is nothing more than a part of your valuables. “A specialty art insurance company focuses on the art,” Fleischer says. “They understand how the claims situation is handled, how the appraisals work, and they understand the movement of an art piece.”
Like any insurance policy, be cognisant of what is covered. Some personal policies exclude restoration. Meaning that if your piece is harmed (think: red wine flying at a canvas) and needs to be repaired, you will be responsible for the cost. If you need to send a painting to a conservator, the value may reduce. Fleischer also notes that an art insurance policy will give you the reduction of market value if that is included in your coverage.
3. What’s the First Step in Insuring My Art Collection?
The first step to insuring your art collection is putting together provenance, or all the necessary documentation to prove that the work of art is yours and what it’s currently worth. These documents include proof of ownership, bill of sale, provenance, a replacement estimate, photographs and the most recent appraisal. You can store all of these documents in your Artwork Archive profile to keep things organized and easily accessible in the cloud. The frequency that you should update your appraisal documents is subject to each company’s underwriting philosophy.
4. How Often Do I Need to Schedule an Appraisal?
Fleischer suggests having an updated appraisal once a year while Edwards suggests every three to five years. There is no wrong answer and the appraisal frequency is heavily dependent on the age and medium of the piece. These are questions you can ask your insurance representative. Although sometimes it can be as easy as sending over the invoices, generally you want an updated value from the past few years. “Maybe [the piece] was originally $2,000,” Edwards suggests “and five years from now it’s $4,000. We want to make sure that in the event of a loss, you get $4,000.”
If you are scheduling an updated appraisal, specify that it is for insurance purposes. This will give you the most up-to-date market value of your piece. Not only is this important for insurance, but is necessary for planning your estate, analyzing the overall value of your collection, filing your taxes, and selling artwork.
5. How Can I Keep My Provenance and Appraisal Documents Timely for My Coverage?
When you’re consistently adding pieces to your collection and updating your appraisal documents, it’s important to stay organized. An archival system like Artwork Archive is a great way to keep everything you need in one easy-to-find place that you can access anytime, anywhere. “Your website is perfect.” Edwards says. “As far as being able to allow your clients to pull out descriptions and values and say here is a list of things I want to insure, it will make it very easy.”
Having all your documents in one place allows you to properly manage the value of your art collection. Accurate information also makes you a lower risk within your insurance policy.
6. What Are the Most Common Claims?
The most common claims between both Fleischer and Edwards are theft, robbery, and art getting damaged in transit. If you are moving or loaning part of your collection out to museums or different venues, make sure your art insurance broker is aware and a part of this process. If the loan is international, be aware that insurance policies vary from country to country. “You want to make sure there is door-to-door coverage,” Edwards says, “so when they pick the painting up at your house it is covered in transit, at the museum, and in transit back to your home.”
Don’t Wait to Mitigate Your Risk
The best way to be sure that your insurance policy covers everything you need is to call your local broker, or start calling potential brokers and ask questions. “Ignorance is not a defense,” Fleischer discloses. “Not having insurance is a risk,” he continues, “so do you take the risk or hedge the risk?”
Your art collection is irreplaceable, and art insurance protects your assets and your investment. It also ensures that, even in the event of a catastrophic claim, you can continue collecting. “You’re never expecting something to happen,” Edwards warns, “having insurance gives you peace of mind.”
Cherish what you love and keep it safe. Get more expert collecting tips for finding, buying, and caring for your collection in our free e-book, Essential Guide to Collecting Art, available to download now.
Metropolitan Museum of Art director Max HolleinPhoto: Eileen Travell
The director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Max Hollein, today defended the museum’s decision to consider selling art, known as deaccessioning, to finance care of its collections and salaries for its employees. A New York Timesreport that it was mulling sales for that purpose had brought a wave of criticism.
“Nothing is going to change” in terms of the amount of art sold, Hollein said in an interview, and the works will be offered at public auction as usual and “we will make the process as transparent as possible.”
The expanded funding mission is allowed under loosened restrictions approved by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) last April to help American museums facing severe financial shortfalls precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic. Previously the association had limited museums to selling works for the sole purpose of financing acquisitions of more art, but museums have been seeking relief to pay their employees and otherwise finance their operations.
The relaxed standards, adopted to help museums fund “direct care” of their collections, are interpreted to sanction paying curators’ and conservators’ salaries as well as covering other operating expenses and are in force until April 2022.
Critics have said that the Met should turn to its wealthy trustees for additional funding before using art sales to finance operating costs, and that deaccessioning for such purposes could deter donors of important works of art.
In the interview, Hollein said that the only key difference from previous deaccessioning is that the proceeds will go elsewhere, once the museum’s board of trustees meets on 2 March and approves an official policy defining collections care as required by the AAMD.
“For two years, proceeds will go not toward purchasing more works but into collections care,” he explains. Acquisitions will continue at the normal pace, he adds, financed by “robust acquisitions funds” established by the Met.
“The Met has a responsibility to our field and our global community,” Hollein says in a long statement posted today on the Met’s website. But, declaring a “historic crisis” for museums, he says: “It is my professional opinion that a deliberate deaccession program is appropriate, useful and necessary for a museum like ours. I also believe that we must face this once-in-a-generation challenge brought by the pandemic by supporting the museum as a whole, especially its staff, while also taking the long view with regard to what is best for the museum.”
Acknowledging the Met’s role as a guidepost for other American museums, Hollein says in his online statement: “I take very seriously the impact that our actions have on other institutions. I also realise that others may have different philosophies.”
He says that the Met’s revenue from deaccessioning ranges from $45,000 to $25m annually, “driven by the wide range of values assigned to specific pieces and different media”. The average from year to year, the director says, is $15m.
The Met has said that it is facing a potential $150m shortfall in the fiscal year ending on 30 June due to its five-and-a-half-month closure in 2020, its ability to operate at only limited capacity since it reopened last August, the loss of fund-raising galas and the slide in retail sales–all resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hollein emphasises that the museum has always deaccessioned works that it no longer wants as it pursues art acquisitions. The criteria for deaccessioning, he adds, stipulate that the work being sold “does not further the mission of the museum”; that it is redundant within the museum’s holdings or a duplicate; that it is of lesser quality than other objects of the same type in the collection; and that it lacks “sufficient aesthetic merit or historical importance to warrant retention”.
According to the Met’s 990 tax filings as a nonprofit institution, revenue from deaccessioning amounted to around $13.8m in the fiscal year ended in June 2020, $6.18m in the year ended in June 2019 and $2.1m in the year ended in June 2018.
The museum's 990 report for the fiscal year ended in 2020, for example, listed two works sold that brought in excess of $50,000: Canaletto’s Santa Maria della Salute, a painting from around 1740, and Francesco Guardi’s Imaginary View of a Venetian Square or Campo, from the 1780s.
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