Top tips for disaster preparation for your art collection


Brisbane Homes under water during the great flood of 2011. It was the worst disaster to strike the continent of Australia.

When extreme weather strikes, a disaster preparedness plan can help art collectors protect their artwork

By Anne Rappa, senior vice president, Huntington T. Block

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, an art dealer sat alone in the basement of his art gallery space pulling artwork out of dirty Hudson River water. Some artwork was moved to be stabilized, while some was left out to dry. Other pieces were a total loss.  At HTB’s request, the insurer assessed this particular claim, its given circumstances and agreed to extended coverage under the terms of the policy, which included the costs associated with the hiring of art handlers and the subsequent triaging of the artwork.  This action helped prevent further damage from occurring as well as reduced the related claim expenses.  There was a loss adjuster live-on-the-ground to assist with the process, and decisions were made with a knowledgeable loss adjuster standing by this art dealer.

After more than 20 years in the fine arts insurance business, I’ve seen far too many losses with art collectors that may have been preventable or reduced if appropriate risk management or disaster preparedness plan had been in place.   With hurricane season at its peak, it is highly recommended that art collectors have a disaster preparedness plan in place.

Disaster preparedness starts with a pause.  It acknowledges that the unforeseen is possible.  With that, there are eight questions an art collector should consider, in creating their disaster preparedness plan:

  1. Do you have an inventory, data and photos of your collection compiled and stored offsite? Are there associated invoices and/or appraisal or valuation documentation data that can be easily provided in the event of large loss?
  2. Do you have a list of professionals and contact information handy, in the event of a disaster? Highly-specialized resources, such as art handlers, shippers, warehousemen, conservators are in high demand and often in deficit in the wake of a catastrophe.
  3. Do you have an inventory of supplies and equipment that are necessary to rely upon during initial recovery efforts?
  4. Is the artwork currently secure in its environment in the event of a natural event? Windstorm? Surge? Flood? Earthquake?

– Should artwork on the first floor be moved to the second floor or higher?
– Should Heavy or fragile objects be moved to the lowest shelf, or out of the room completely?
– Can artwork located in vulnerable areas in proximity to windows be moved into interior rooms?
– Should outdoor sculptures be wrapped or even moved to protect them from flying debris?

  1. What is required to make the artwork secure?
  2. Who can be called to make the artwork secure?
  3. Should the artwork remain on site or be moved offsite?
  4. In the event of a catastrophic loss involving multiple objects, who would pack, transport and conserve the artwork? Where is the nearest clean and responsible environment where artwork can be taken to stabilize it for future conservation effort?

Answering these questions can go a long way towards developing your disaster preparedness plan. If you have an art collection and need assistance to start this process, contact your insurance professional.  Your insurance broker can help guide you in developing a preparedness plan to keep your valuable property and artwork safe, in the face of a natural disaster.

About the Author

Anne Rappa is Senior Vice President at Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency. She has more than 23 years’ experience in the fine art insurance field, representing large and/or complex museum, commercial and private and corporate collection risks.  For more information, contact Anne at 212.479.4673 or [email protected].