Risk management for your art collection


An art collection has both financial value and sentimental or emotional worth, so when thinking about risk management for art and other collections, it is helpful to consider both physical and financial loss. That is the advice of John Sims, Head of AIG Private Client Group, UK.

He says it is impossible to predict every eventuality, but AIG’s experience has informed the following seven point guidance designed to help clients protect their valuables:


The values of tangible assets tend to increase over time, regardless of seasonal or annual trends. Since valuations are often used as the basis for insurance coverage, if a piece is lost, stolen or damaged, an outdated valuation could limit a collector’s ability to be fully compensated through an insurance policy. A good rule of thumb is to update valuations regularly, for example, a minimum of every three or four years.


Maintaining up-to-date inventory records reduces the likelihood of mysterious disappearance and helps expedite the claims process in the unfortunate event of a loss. Every collector should maintain a complete inventory with regular updates of all items. The format can be as simple as a comprehensive list, but we recommend entering descriptions and images into a secure computerized collections management database. Whichever format is used, a copy of the inventory should be kept off-site.


A work of art is never more at risk of being damaged than when it is handled. Whenever art is purchased or moved between homes, ensure that a specialty fine art shipping company is engaged.


Whenever possible, valuable works should be installed under the guidance of a professional art handler. At the very least, it is good practice to use two hooks and two wires for hanging pictures and mirrors, as the redundancy adds stability and decreases likelihood of loss should one hook fail. Keeping art out of direct sunlight may seem obvious but many people don’t think about the consequences.


It is no secret that works of art are attractive targets for thieves, although surprisingly, most art thefts are crimes of opportunity that easily could have been prevented. Secure your home with a central station burglar alarm with motion sensors and contacts on all doors and windows. For jewelry and other portable valuables, install a safe that is bolted in to the fabric of your home.


Every minute a fire burns it doubles in size, which means that early detection is critical to saving lives and property. To best protect your home, family and valuables, install a centrally-monitored smoke detector for every 1200 square feet, and keep annually inspected fire extinguishers handy.

 Emergency Planning

Preparing a collection-specific plan will ensure that staff and service providers will act efficiently and effectively to protect the collection before and after a major catastrophe. A basic plan includes a priority list of items to be removed from the home, a communication list with contact information, a list of equipment needed for removal of the artwork, handling instructions, locations of gas, water, and electricity shut-off valves and a conservation plan for the post event period.

John Sims

John Sims