27th January 2023

We are delighted to be co-supporting the opening of Curated at Dorfold: British Art Then and Now, with Hallett Independent, a specialist firm of private client and art insurance brokers. We invited Hallett Independent to share their insights on the importance of specialist art and heritage brokers for art collections. Curated at Dorfold is a celebration of British Art set in a quintessential British stately home, a Jacobean mansion set in the heart of the English countryside. It opens at Dorfold Hall, Nantwich, Cheshire on 29 January and runs through until 11 February. See the article here.

Nobody enjoys completing a tax return, making a will, or negotiating their insurance cover. They are necessary but dull and are increasingly done online which in theory should make them simpler but of course, rarely does. The one thing that makes all of them possible is having a friendly and knowledgeable helping hand, a seasoned intermediary who can smooth the way.

Art collectors, whether they live in an historic house, a country cottage, or a modern city apartment, are rarely easy to categorise. Which means that the role of a specialist art insurance broker is akin to an interpreter. Their job is not only to find the most suitable insurer offering the best cover at the best rate but, and this is a key part of the equation, they need to be there as the go-between, with the necessary knowledge of what each party requires.

In gathering all the necessary information to present to insurers, a vital part of the broker’s role is offer advice to the client. This can be around security and fire protection, valuations, risk management from the way picture are hung or ceramics displayed to dusting and cleaning and increasingly, about the heat, humidity, and light. They should also have the necessary contacts to consult and offer advice.

More than ever, underwriters rely on software to keep them up to date with likelihood of risk. For instance, in the context of an ever-increasing flood risk, the broker’s role is to explain that although a client’s property may have never flooded in its 200-year history, with climate change, the likelihood of it flooding in the near future is real and unfortunately has to be paid for in increased rating.

Not only should the broker appreciate art and understand the art market, but they need to be aware of new concerns such as cyber threats and be able to offer advice on the right safeguards that need to be in place.  As well as facts and figures, underwriters are looking for responsible insureds who maintain their homes. Traditionally, art collectors are seen as a ’good risk’ because they have spent time and money forming a collection and are keen to look after it. 

Despite having all the best protections in place, claims will and do happen. Although burglary is often seen as the greatest threat, art is relatively rarely stolen. Money, jewellery and computer equipment are more often the target for everyday thieves. The real risk comes from fire and, most frequently, water damage. This is why it is essential that wiring is checked and updated and when the house is unoccupied, heating is kept on at a minimum level in cold weather to prevent burst pipes. 

It is in the event of a claim that a good broker comes in to their own. With a burglary, time is of the essence and the sooner insurers can be notified and details provided the better. Sadly, the police clear-up rate is pitifully low so the chance of recovering stole goods is minimal however, in the rare instance of well documented art and antiques, brokers and insurers will work together to circulate details through the art trade and museum world. Often specialist loss adjusters are successful in recovering items. Equally, with fire and water damage, it is important to move quickly to salvage and repair works of art. Again, specialist knowledge is vital here so a good broker will work with a loss adjuster to ensure that in the event of a flood, humidity levels are closely watched and controlled and that art and antiques are sent to the right expert conservators.