Activists amplify the climate problem of art insurers – 71Bait

  • Fear that other groups could join attacks
  • Some insurers only cover work behind glass
  • Inflation will also drive up premiums
  • Flood and fire damage risks add to the pressure

LONDON, November 25 (Reuters) – Attacks by climate activists on some of the world’s most valuable paintings have increased concerns among insurers about the threat posed to art itself by climate change, concerns which are seen as a result of higher art insurance premiums.

Activists have drawn attention to the climate cause in recent weeks by throwing tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London and a black liquid at Gustav Klimt’s “Death and Life” at the Leopold Museum in Vienna in protest use of fossil fuels.

The paintings were behind glass or a screen, and a spokesman for the National Gallery said there was only “minor damage” to the sunflowers’ frame.

The Leopold Museum said the Klimt was not damaged but did not respond to a request for further comment.

However, many in the art and insurance world say it could only be a matter of time before artworks are destroyed, especially if the protests spread beyond climate activism.

Nearly 100 galleries, including New York’s Guggenheim and Paris’ Louvre, issued a statement earlier this month saying activists “seriously underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects.”

“Right now it’s just climate activists who are mostly middle-class liberals and have no real intention of harming labor,” said Robert Read, arts director and private client at insurer Hiscox (HSX.L).

“We’re concerned if it spreads to other protest groups that are less posh and have a less caring attitude.”

Even if the art itself isn’t directly damaged, the cleaning costs of repairing a frame and remounting a picture can reach tens of thousands of dollars, said Filippo Guerrini Maraldi, head of fine art at brokerage Howden.

“The risk profile has now changed. Insurers might say ‘I want a little more money next year’ and ‘What are you going to do with the security?’” Maraldi said, adding that art owners were also becoming more nervous.

“We have already received several inquiries from customers who may have pieces in museums and are asking that they be stashed.”

The art insurance market generates approximately US$750 million in premiums worldwide. Premium rates rose by around 5% in 2020 and 2021 and have held steady this year, but insurers are expecting an increase.

PRESSURE ON BONUSES

Losses and the level of insurance availability tend to dictate insurance premiums.

Regardless of the climate protests, the rise in global warming-related fires and floods that have inspired activism is likely to push up insurance premiums over the next year, insurers and brokers said.

Inflation is also putting premiums under pressure.

Jennifer Schipf, global chief underwriting officer for fine art & species at AXA XL (AXAF.PA), said she expects reinsurers – who underwrite insurers – to increase rates during the Jan. 1 renewal period, which translates to could affect the art market.

So far, the attacks have not led to any claims, say insurers and brokers. It is unclear how the Leopold Museum has acted, but the British government bears the risks for the National Gallery’s permanent collections, a spokesman for the gallery said.

Large museums often rely on governments to provide financial security in the event of a claim, rather than applying for commercial insurance.

However, commercial museums and galleries do purchase art insurance, and its use is more common in the United States than in Europe, even at larger museums.

The premiums they pay have remained constant in part because broader concerns about terrorist attacks and violence had already tightened security in recent years, with more work behind glass and increased numbers of security guards and bag searches.

In some cases, commercial insurers have also become more cautious, with one insurer, who asked not to be named, saying it only insures artworks that are behind glass.

While five insurers contacted by Reuters said they are not yet factoring climate attack into premiums, some artists say they are already facing increased costs.

Thomas Hampel, agent for German artist ANTOINETTE, said insurance premiums for her art would rise 12.5% ​​over the next year, compared to 3% to 5% in the previous three years.

Furthermore, the additional cost to safely display a large work of art would be 35,000 euros ($36,417) for 100 square meters of anti-reflective glass, in addition to transport and installation.

“We cannot afford these additional costs,” said Hampel.

The attacks could also affect government compensation – the state insurance that covers big galleries when they show art that doesn’t belong to them, said Adam Prideaux, managing director of art insurance broker Hallett Independent.

Arts Council England, which provides such compensation, said in emailed comments it could not provide details on individual claims, but said “only a small number of mostly minor claims have been made over the past decade”. .

($1 = 0.9611 euros)

Reporting by Carolyn Cohn and Barbara Lewis in London and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Rome; Edited by Elaine Hardcastle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Barbara Lewis

Thomson Reuters

Sub-editor with energy and environment experience including UN climate talks and OPEC, experience in Paris, Belgium and Hong Kong and assignments in Dubai, Ireland, South Africa and Switzerland.

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