Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889 Oil on canvas. Photo: The Courtauld Gallery, London
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How do Art Restoration Experts Work with Insurance Companies? 

When any kind of damage has been done to a piece of fine art, it is generally necessary to bring in an art restoration expert to accomplish any repairs that are necessary. However, before this happens, the insurance company will generally have the artwork appraised by an expert who can assess the level of damage which has occurred, and whether or not restoration efforts will impact its appraisal value.

Because any repairs must be carried out either by an art conservator or an art restorer, it will be necessary for someone to make a decision on the exact approach to be taken so as to accomplish the restoration. This article will discuss how each of these two approaches might be carried out, and what the impacts are on any piece of fine art which is insured by an art insurance company.

Photo: conservation program at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Does Restoring Art Decrease its Value?

There are two main approaches to restoring artwork, those being by conservators and by restorers. Conservators will always have much more training than restorers, often obtaining post-graduate degrees with a considerable background in chemistry, as it relates to paints and artwork in general. Conservators will also stay abreast of the most recent advances with regard to materials used in the art of restoration, as well as any new techniques.

Because they are aware of all the latest restoration methods, conservators are ideally equipped to restore artwork, such that their own restoration work can be undone in the future when better methods have been discovered. This is highly desirable, because it creates a kind of ethical buffer between the work done by the original artist and the work done by the conservator, which is always considered to be reversible.

That is not usually the case when a restorer works on a piece of fine art, because a restorer will generally not have the same kind of advanced technical training that a conservator will, and will often use techniques which are considered non-reversible. When a restorer works on a piece of art and permanently affects the piece, it will very often have a negative impact on the value of the artwork. On the other hand, when a conservator works on a piece of fine art, there is generally little or no diminution of the artwork’s value, because the piece has not been permanently affected.

Is Art Covered by Insurance?

This is a very good question, and although you might think that all art is covered by some kind of fine art insurance policy, the truth is that this is not always the case. There have been numerous incidents in which a piece of fine art had no insurance coverage, and then was damaged by some kind of freak accident. At that point the owner of the art piece attempted to get insurance coverage on the artwork, only to find out that there would be no reimbursement for damage already done, and there would also be no coverage for restoration of the diminished value of the piece.

In other words, trying to get insurance for your fine art piece after damage has been done will simply be useless, at least in terms of restoring the piece. It might be helpful against future damage, but it won’t do you any good at all in terms of restoring what has already occurred. If you’re expecting that your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover any pieces of fine art which you have collected, you’re probably in for a disappointment.

You’re much better off to purchase special coverage for specific pieces of fine art, and to have them appraised at their current value, in case any damage does occur in the future. You can also work with a broker whose specialty it is to provide fine art insurance for clients, and this may be the ideal way to approach it, because art insurance specialists have the necessary experience to protect your art, and to help you with any claims which become necessary.

Even when working with a fine art insurance broker, you have to be careful about what’s included in your policy, because some policies specifically exclude restoration. That means if your piece should become damaged, you would be responsible for the entire cost of any restoration efforts. It also means that if it’s necessary to call in a conservator, the value of the fine art piece may be diminished.

As a preliminary to obtaining fine art insurance coverage, you should gather up all documentation to prove that you own the artwork in question, as well as what it’s currently appraised value is. After that, it’s up to you to obtain the appropriate insurance for your fine art pieces, and to protect yourself against the possibility of any future damage.

How Much Will Insurance Cover?

Generally speaking, a fine arts insurance policy will cover the entire cost of any restoration which is deemed necessary. Once restoration has been accomplished, it will be reviewed by a fine arts expert to determine whether or not there has been any decline in the value of the piece. If the expert should decide that a 20% decrease in value has occurred, the insurance company will then pay to the policyholder 20% of the value of the insured artwork.

This can be a fairly subjective evaluation, since there is no equivalent to the book value of a vehicle, and that leads to disagreements between insurance companies, art experts, and art owners. In such cases, many policies have clauses written into them which call for a third-party appraiser to evaluate any damage which has been done, as well as any decline in value which has occurred.

Photo: conservation program at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Preserving Your Art

Whenever some kind of damage has been done to a piece of fine art, the better approach by far is to have restoration work done by an art conservator who will always be much better trained than an art restorer. Conservators use methods which can be reversed in the future as better restoration methods are discovered, whereas restorers often use methods which permanently affect the piece of fine art.

One of the premier art conservator companies in the nation is B.R Howard & Associates, and when you want a piece of fine art restored to its original condition, this is the company you should be working with. Contact us today to discuss any restoration project you have in mind, and we’ll be glad to work with you to once again achieve the original splendor of any fine art piece you have in mind.

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