Damage at the 99 Commercial Street studios (Photo by Hyperallergic)

Damage at the 99 Commercial Street studios (photo by Hyperallergic)

The damage Hurricane Sandy did to the art world may have been submerged during the holidays, but if there was any single statement to remind us of the disaster, it’s this: a Reuters report noting that losses from the storm may reach $500 million.

That statistic comes via Axa, the world’s biggest art insurance company; commercial insurance company Catlin; and London-based insurance broker R.K. Harrison. Axa alone expects to pay out $40 million, and Reuters notes that work by Peter Max, the 1960s artist behind the iconic psychedelic images of the Statue of Liberty, makes up a large percentage of the claims. The claim on Max’s work, which was stored in a flooded warehouse, could make up as much as $300 million.

In comparison, the insurance claim on the 2004 Momart storage warehouse fire that destroyed much of Charles Saatchi’s collection of Young British Artists like Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin only came to $33 million.

The huge amount of damage could go so far as to make a dent in the art insurance industry, which was widely seen as a good market to get into in the past decade, since claims are relatively few, and insurance seems like a necessary precaution for such valuable objects. The concentration of so many valuable objects in a small number of warehouses, however, may have intensified Sandy’s impact on the art world, and the overall volume of claims might lead to a shrinking of the market and an increase in prices for insurance.

Filippo Guerrini-Maraldi, R.K. Harrison’s head of fine art insurance, predicts that the rate will increase “as much as five to 10 percent,” noting that the earlier, lower rates caused by competition among emerging art insurance companies have already disappeared.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

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