As an artist, your work is part of you: an extension of your psyche, your worldview, your story. It doesn’t get more individualized than that. And yet, you need to balance total subjectivity with a necessary objective: making a living. It’s a classic struggle, pitting your right brain against its hemispherical sibling. Fear and worry could make an appearance, but we’re looking to calm those tendencies. Peace of brain, here we come.
When artwork leaves your studio, bound for an event or gallery showing, a myriad of potentials for disaster arise. Given the risk, you’ll need to find a way to nimbly walk the line between your creative safe zone and a savvy ‘business professional’ persona. Perhaps in your trade, daily negotiation and collaborative exchanges are few. But when it comes to consigning your pieces to a gallery or including them in a show, you’ll need to lean heavy to the left, having honest discussions with everyone involved—insurance provider, gallery owner, etc. The end goal should be comprehensive protection, a solid contractual agreement, and a collaborative relationship.
One of the most complex issues you’ll face when ironing details is assigning an accurate retail value to your works; a third-party appraiser can tackle the question objectively. A definite must, insuring your art can also seem daunting. Thankfully, independent agents can provide key insights and sound policy advice. And if an appraisal is out of reach,
Maybe you’re not sure that protection against risk is merited. Truthfully though, reality shouts otherwise. So at the risk of raising the Chicken Little flag, let’s consider these potential mishaps:
- Accidental damage while on display (e.g. visitor falls into art)
- Protestors damage or destroy art
- Natural disaster destroys or causes irreparable damage
- Fire destroys gallery, including consigned art
- Damage during transport or installation
Clearly, consigned works both demand and deserve protection. As the creator of the art, your wishes hold understandable value, and a gallery owner should be willing to discuss your concerns. Here are a few considerations that will get your gears turning, your lobes aligned:
- Who is responsible for the art’s care, and when/at what point?
- What value is being insured while art is on display (e.g. consignment, retail)?
- Does the gallery carry coverage against location-specific perils, like floods or earthquakes?
- Is the gallery open to a clearly defined and mutually favorable written agreement?
By now, it should be obvious: the need for gallery exposure can never outweigh the risk of damage. So if a gallery refuses to carry insurance on consigned art, steer clear. Flip that coin and you’d want to be prepared to field their questions about how much coverage you carry—embrace the give-and-take. And while you’ll surely encounter a host of ‘unknowns’ and less-than-perfect situations in the gallery world, you don’t have to let those details steal your confidence or interrupt your creative flow. Instead, let’s take up a tailor-made, hand-crafted defense against risk. Peace of mind, brain, and soul is well within reach.
A sizable piece of the artist’s protection puzzle is taking steps to protect and preserve artworks in the face of a natural (or other) disaster. During September—National Preparedness Month—the nation’s President noted that “it is each citizen’s responsibility to be as prepared as possible for emergencies.” Especially when hoping for a smooth transition to post-disaster life, preparation is key.
So whether you live, create or display your work in an area prone to flooding, wildfire, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc., be sure you’re prepared for ‘worst case’. Ask yourself—and your agent—if your current insurance policies will go far enough, and ask galleries you work with if they’ve taken steps to prepare. When chatting with potential exhibition venues, this is a point that it’s worth being insistent on. Your persistence and thoroughness will benefit everyone in the long run. And in the event that things do go awry, be assured that there are resources available, and people ready to help.