Insure Art, It is Necessary and Important


How Can I afford it Most of You Answer Back?

The world is going round at a risk and we all know that we are all living a risky life whatever our everyday life is. Office, home, travel, car insurance, home insurance, contents insurance etc. That makes insurance an everyday event, a brutal necessity that costs us quiet a penny on a daily basis but absolutely essential!

Thus, art of some value, antiques of some value and anything else of value need to be insured in order to be on the safe side and have No headaches in case of accidents, theft, home disasters etc. Of course all insurance comes at a cost and more so when one sells at auction where the cost is 1.5% or 2% of the hammer price and as soon as the item is at auction.

My short entry today regards this important issue and you must believe me. You will never regret spending a little to be sleeping without nightmares. What is the chance of a painting falling off a wall, hitting an alabaster sculpture of merit and breaking it into several pieces? Very small but it happened to me. The insurance took care of that and I was not £1000 out of pocket.

March 1988 Insurance Mandatory!!

Stolen! What do you mean stolen?

Otto Gebler

(German, [1838-1917] A well-respected and collected artist in Germany and elsewhere who painted animal scenes with sheep and cows. Auction price range £3000- 60,000)

17th March 1988, Christie’s S. Kensington – 8th April 1988, Dr Nagel, Cologne, Germany

The work by Otto Gebler had been offered for sale at Christie’s, King Street main saleroom a few months earlier but remained unsold with an estimate of £6-8000. I attributed that failure to post stock exchanges effects. The painting was then brought over to South Kensington, where it failed to sell again with an estimate of £2-3000. That was very strange because Gebler was an artist with very good auction sales in Germany and elsewhere.

Soon after in March 1988 that same Gebler appeared for sale a third time at Christie’s. Was it third time lucky? Yes, it was! I was the lucky buyer at a cost of £1000! It was a fine oil painting on panel, which on a good day in Germany could sell for £5000. Admittedly it was small, but it had what was required; a well painted, popular subject and in very good condition.

No sooner had I bought the minute oil painting than I shipped it to Nagel Auctions in Cologne. No procrastinating, no difficulties and no headaches at all. Sending it via the Post Office for a few pounds was easy as the painting was in total 30x20cm, including the flimsy, old frame. The consignment documents were sent and all paperwork was in place. The agreement was £3,000-5000 estimate with a reserve of £3,000 to be sold in April 1988. This was efficient, quick trading.

It was the second week of April, but no catalogue had arrived yet. This was not the usual German efficiency! Nearly all auctions have their catalogues ready two to three weeks before the relevant sale and consignors receive a copy together with a confirmation of their property for sale including estimate and reserve. By the third week I was seriously worried! Where was my catalogue from Nagel of Cologne? I waited and waited in vain. Worried, frustrated and puzzled by the event, I decided to phone the auction. The telephonist / receptionist had no idea who I was and there was no Gebler of my description in the sale! My worry increased tenfold, by which time I was passed on to one of the senior directors. That alerted me to a serious problem, but what was it?

“I am Peter Constant, sir. I cannot get a satisfactory answer to my problem. Can you please help me?”

“Mr Constant, I am afraid I have some bad news for you.”

“What bad news?”

“Your painting was stolen from our gallery!”

“What do you mean stolen? Where is my painting? What happened?”

“Please, do not panic,” the manager reassured me calmly. “Your painting was insured for £3000, at the reserve you set, and that you will get within the next month. Mr Constant, your property was a small painting. Two robbers rushed into the gallery and took your painting and a small carpet. We chased them for some distance and we got the rug back but not the painting. It was so small and light that they got away with it. I am so sorry to disappoint you!” He was genuinely apologetic.

“Yes, yes, I see,” I mumbled. But, I was happy and relieved! The insurance sum was plenty enough for me! I thanked him for the information, but I was not sorry for the theft. I was so relieved they would pay me at the reserve, a handsome profit on my investment in less than three months. I put the phone down and sighed with relief. Thank God it was stolen! No worries about it being sold or not! Life teaches us many lessons daily and this was a lesson I took on board even more seriously after that event.

· Unsold art should be respected.

· Have a reserve on your consignments.

· Insure your property for peace of mind with the auctioneers’ insurance or your own.

· Have peace of mind by insuring your valuable art, even though it is an expensive policy.

All auctions of mention insure anything consigned to them for fire, damage, theft etc. This is a necessary expense passed on to sellers although in many cases resented by them. The proceeds from the insurance came in by the end of May and the bank account was bulging in the thousands. For the first time since late 1986 my bank account was looking healthy, and that after a major financial disaster. My stock was substantial, but I still lacked that one important major item. Would I find it and bare the account to the bone?

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