'Death of Artist' Cover - do your clients need this?
By Alexandra Richards, Private Clients Account Executive
The purpose of insurance is to settle claims. Insurance companies want to settle claims both quickly and amicably. On this basis, we recommend that art, antiques and collectibles are insured on an ‘agreed value’ basis (usually based on a professional third party valuation for insurance purposes), so that both the client and insured know what the basis of settlement shall be prior to any loss and can plan accordingly. Art is not a homogenised product like soap powder and the art market is full of subtle complexities, where two works by the same artist can vary enormously. Each piece of work should be valued on its own merits against the current art market. This is the main reason why art values should never be automatically indexed.
It is a commonly held belief that the death of an artist triggers an increase in the value of that artist’s lifetime’s artistic output. Perhaps the logic behind this notion is that once the artist dies no more works are produced and with a finite supply and presumed increase in demand, prices shall rise.
Today insurers such as AXA ART aim to offer their clients the most comprehensive policy cover so if a loss should occur, they will not lose out. Therefore we are introducing three new extensions in cover for private collectors:
So without being too simplistic, here are some factors that might cause values to change. For virtually all artists it is their ‘key’, seminal, classic or most typical works that are generally the most desirable, produced when they are at the ‘height of their powers’. Damian Hirst’s spins, spots or skulls for example are typical of his output. Only a few highly important artists such as Picasso have perceived ‘brands’ so strong that virtually everything that they produced is now considered valuable.
Simply put, the commercial value of an artist’s work is linked solely to demand. Demand is largely controlled by dealers, auctioneers and collectors together with the media promoting and generating interest in a particular artist. This interest may be by way of exhibitions, TV programmes and books. If the artist is in demand and fashionable at the time of their death, e.g. Lucian Freud, then it is true that retrospectives and publications shall continue to fuel interest and therefore the prices for that artist’s work. Films such as Titanic sent related memorabilia spiralling and the recent Star Wars film did the same for that franchise’s merchandise. An exceptional auction result, for whatever reason, can recalibrate an entire market. Today an artist’s brand or reputation is a fickle thing.
The market for the best pieces by selected artists continues to rise and ultimately the onus is upon every client to seek regular revaluations in order that the ‘agreed value’ insured maintains its relevance to the current market.
If you would like a free, no obligation review of your gallery’s insurances, please contact [email protected] or call 07464 545648.