Today’s art collectors are younger than in the past, and their tastes have moved from paintings of Matisse and Monet to post-war and Contemporary works—a shift that means their collections include works by living artists, according to Chubb.

This also means that when the art works are damaged, those artists need to be consulted in restoration plans, warns the Warren, N.J.-based insurer, which has long been a provider of insurance for private collectors of art, antiques, jewelry and other valuable possessions.

“Based on the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) of 1990, living artists should be consulted before any restoration begins on their works,” said Laura Murphy Doyle, a fine art specialist at Chubb Personal Insurance paper. “Failing to do so could prompt an artist to unnecessarily denounce a work, essentially rendering it worthless,” said Doyle, who authored a white paper titled, “Conservation of the Works of Living Artists,” released at the annual conference of the International Society of Appraisers yesterday.

In such a case, Doyle explained that an insured work would be considered a total loss, and an insurer would require that it be destroyed or donated to an organization for conservation research, so that it doesn’t resurface on the art market.

“Although insurance may help reimburse the insured for the loss, most collectors would prefer to continue to enjoy owning and displaying the work, not to mention retaining it for potential future appreciation,” said Doyle.

According to the white paper, unless artists waived their VARA rights prior to damage, they can elect to:

  • Perform a restoration themselves or in collaboration with a conservator;
  • Approve the treatment plan and allow conservators to perform the entire restoration; or
  • Denounce the work if it has been distorted, mutilated or modified to the extent that they no longer view it as their original piece.

“In the vast majority of cases where an artwork is damaged, the artist is willing to be involved—actively or as consultant—in the conservation,” the paper concludes. But in some cases, artists “have disclaimed authorship of a piece due to relatively minor damage.”

The paper notes that VARA only covers works of visual art, including paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, and certain still photographs. Unclear is VARA’s application to new media—works created using digital technology, computer graphics and animation, video, robotics, 3-D printing and biotechnology.

Source: Chubb Group of Insurance Companies