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A Complete Guide to Fine Art Insurance

If you have a valuable piece of artwork in your home, you likely want to protect it at all costs. Fine art insurance extends the limits of your homeowners or renters insurance. It offers you an increased level of coverage on your priceless possessions.

A specialty fine art insurance company can give you the added benefit of working directly with professionals who understand exactly what type of coverage you need for your artwork instead of a general insurance agent.

Still not sure how to get art insurance? Check out our art insurance crash-course to learn everything you need to know before getting coverage.

Quick Look: The Best Fine Art Insurance Providers

  • Huntington T. Block
  • AXA XL
  • Progressive

What’s Art Insurance?

Fine art insurance specialists offer coverage for highly-valued works of art. In the world of insurance, the term “art” extends far beyond photographs and paintings. Virtually anything that has value beyond its function and intrinsic properties can be considered fine art.

As a result, art insurance is available for a wide range of artistic pieces, including paintings, sculptures, antique pieces of pottery, rare coins, textiles, manuscripts, pieces of armor and even valuable historical books.

Most fine art insurance policies have a valuation clause. This means, if the artwork is irreparably damaged or stolen, they will compensate you with the current market value of the piece at the time that it was lost.

Fine art insurance policies may be sold on a scheduled basis or blanket policy.

  • Scheduled basis: Each individual piece is insured up to a certain amount.
  • Blanket policy: An entire collection is covered with an overall policy limit and no maximum per-item payouts). Blanket policies are often purchased by universities, museums and galleries to protect their large collections, while individual and private collectors with smaller groups of valuables usually opt for scheduled coverage.

Art Insurance vs. Home Insurance: What’s the Difference?

If you’re a private collector and you have homeowners insurance, you don’t need an additional art insurance policy because damages to your artwork are already covered, right?

Many private collectors are shocked to learn that their homeowners insurance includes a clause that limits the amount of money they’re able to recover in the event that their artwork is damaged by a covered peril.

Most homeowners insurance policies specify limitations on how much money can be paid out for a single item or category of items after a loss, regardless of the policy’s total value.

For example, if you have a homeowners policy that includes $10,000 worth of coverage, your policy might also include a stipulation that says a maximum of $1,000 can be used to replace artwork that’s lost or damaged. This means that if a painting valued at $10,000 is stolen from your home, you’ll only be able to recover $1,000 from the loss.

It’s possible to extend the coverage of your artwork through your homeowners’ insurance by purchasing a rider. A rider is an additional layer of protection that offers more protection for a high-value item, which insures something of a higher value, despite overall policy limits. Many homeowners purchase riders for things like jewelry, musical instruments or artwork.

A rider can provide protection for single works of art. If you have a very highly valuable piece, a collection of pieces, a piece that’s stored outside of your home, or a piece that’s likely to go up in value from the time of purchase, you’re better off choosing a fine art insurance policy.

Types of Coverage

There are 2 major types of art insurance coverage that you may want to purchase, title insurance or property insurance.

Title Insurance

Similar to the title insurance you buy when you purchase a home, artwork title insurance reimburses you if another owner steps forth with a rightful claim to the title of a piece of artwork you purchased.

Like title insurance for a home, fine art title insurance is often a one-time expense, meaning that you won’t have to pay ongoing monthly premiums to maintain coverage.

Sound like too specific of a situation to bother insuring against? Don’t write it off so quickly. Due to the longstanding practice of shielding art buyers’ identities at high-value auctions, the illicit black market of stolen artwork has grown to be worth an estimated $6 billion annually — second only to drug and weapon trafficking.

If you unknowingly purchase a piece of artwork with a defective title and a previous owner with a rightful claim to the title comes forward, you’ll be forced to return the work of art without compensation from the rightful owner.

Art collectors, gallery owners and those who purchase large quantities of art often purchase title insurance, which grants compensation for their purchase in the event of a defective title.

Property Insurance

Property insurance provides compensation if the piece or pieces of artwork named on the policy are damaged, lost or stolen. Art insurance policies often include named perils, situations in which the owner of the work would be entitled to compensation.

Make sure you read your policy thoroughly and know what’s covered. If your art is lost or stolen, your insurance policy may also include a clause that states that you must file a police report or attempt to recover the artwork before they’ll compensate you.

How Much does Art Insurance Cost?

As a general rule, title insurance for a piece of artwork usually costs between 1% and 7% of the total value of the artwork. Insurance companies justify this price by claiming that rightful owners are difficult to track down, especially if the artwork has large gaps in its claims and ownership history records.

You’ll pay more for title insurance if your artwork doesn’t have a solid transaction record available. For example, the title insurance for a painting that was considered “lost” during the Nazi invasion of France in World War II would be much more expensive to insure than a piece of postmodern artwork created in the 1950s that has an official sales record.

Calculating the cost of fine art property insurance is a bit more complicated. The specific amount you’ll pay for property insurance depends upon a wide range of factors. Some of the things that might influence the cost of your art insurance premium include:

  • The valuation of the art you want to insure
  • How often you move or loan out the artwork
  • Where your artwork is located
  • Under what conditions your artwork is stored
  • Your home security system
  • The current condition of the artwork
  • How much a partial replacement or restoration would cost if the artwork isn’t irreparably damaged

As a general rule, expect to pay between 1% to 2% of the value of your artwork per year in premiums.

When Art Insurance is (and Isn’t) Worth It

Consider the following factors before seeking a policy.

You May Need Art Insurance If…

  • The location of your artwork is public knowledge. Do you own a high-value piece? Does the general public know about it? Knowing exactly where valuable pieces are located increases the chance of theft, but property insurance can mitigate your risks.
  • You move your artwork often. Art owners know that loaning their pieces to galleries, museums or universities for display is one of the best ways to increase the piece’s value. However, frequent moves also increase the chance that the item is damaged during transport or stolen or lost. If you frequently loan out your artwork or move it often, fine art insurance is essential.
  • Your artwork is old. The art industry doesn’t have a single regulatory body that tracks title claims, but modern auction records and the internet are closing this gap. Older pieces and historical items are still prone to title claims. If you have an older item, it’s worth the initial cost to insure your title.

You Might Not Need Art Insurance If…

  • You aren’t sure of its worth. Your insurance company will require that you have an unbiased appraisal of your artwork before they’ll insure it. If you aren’t sure how much money your artwork is worth, you’re more likely to receive a lower appraised value.
  • You have an official provenance for the artwork. A provenance is an official documentation record of all the owners a piece of artwork has had. If you have a complete provenance that covers everything from the creation of the artwork to your ownership of the piece, title insurance is likely an unnecessary expense.

How to Get Coverage

Work with an insurance provider who specializes in fine art because these companies employ underwriters who are much more familiar with the dynamic of art compared to general insurance agents.

Before your insurance agent approves you with a coverage limit, answer a number of questions about your artwork, its storage, condition and where you purchased the artwork. Some insurance agents may request to send an underwriter to your property to further assess the value of the artwork.

You’ll also be asked to provide sale records, official appraisals and other authenticity documentation to prove the value of the art and that the art is genuine. Your policy may or may not include a small deductible that you must pay before coverage “kicks in” and reimburses you for the remainder of your loss.  

Pick the Best Art Insurance Company

Choosing the right insurance company is essential for protecting your investment. Carefully read your policy before you sign and consider starting your search with one of our three favorite fine art insurers.

What to Look For

Look for a few specific qualities in a fine art insurance policy.

“All-In” coverage approach. These provide coverage for all perils except those that are specifically named. These types of policies extend your coverage and allow you to cover damage and theft in almost any situation.

Customizable coverage options. The best art insurance policies also offer you options to extend or limit your coverage in certain areas to save on your premiums. For example, if you own a heavy sculpture, it’s unlikely that it will be stolen, but you may want to increase your vandalism protections.

Ongoing appraisal protection. Art collectors know that a piece’s value increases over time. Choosing an insurance policy with an ongoing appraisal clause will allow you to recoup the actual value of the piece in the event of a natural disaster, break-in or theft — not just the value of the item when you bought the policy.

Best Overall: Huntington T. Block

Huntington T. Block is one of the world’s most renowned providers of insurance for musical instruments, collectibles and fine art. The company has policies available for a private collector’s small assembly to a museum’s expansive gallery.

Huntington T. Block’s policies can be customized to suit your individual needs.

The company employs an all-in approach to claims eligibility — the only excluded perils include nuclear war, gradual deterioration over time and damage from pests.

Collectors who insure with Huntington T. Block also enjoy access to in-house claims specialists and art experts who continuously value the artwork to ensure you receive the actual value of your piece in the event of an unfortunate accident or theft.  

AXA XL

AXA XL is a fine art insurance provider with a very broad range of insurance coverage options.

From full museum painting collections to private stamp collections, they’ll insure almost anything that’s highly valued.

AXA XL even has policies for valuable wine collections.

Its insurance policies include clauses for showings and loans.

They also specialize in insuring university and gallery collections.

Completing an application online with AXA XL is easy.

With coverage options available for collections both contained within the United States and those frequently shown around the world.

Progressive

If you have a single, mid-end piece of artwork that you want to insure, Progressive provides an affordable coverage option that you can even bundle with your home or auto insurance policy.

Progressive’s fine art insurance policies cover theft, damage and loss, and its policies even extend to simple misplacement of the item. Fine art insurance from Progressive won’t insure you if you loan out your artwork or if you have a very expensive item, so it’s not recommended for galleries or serious collectors.

However, Progressive’s affordable policies offer a great choice for art owners who don’t have the means to work with a fine art specialty insurer and coverage is available in more states.  

Masterpiece-Level Protections for Your Collections

Art collectors’ prized possessions aren’t just high-value items — they provide personal enjoyment.

Overall, make sure that the policy you choose is individualized for your artwork and your needs. Consider reviewing your policy options with an art attorney before making your decision. There’s nothing worse than believing that you’re protected only to find that you’re actually not covered.