The FINANCIAL — Art is digitized, forged and sold on a nebulous market. Eric Wolzenburg, head of art insurance at Allianz Germany, explains how to insure art pieces nevertheless, according to Allianz.
1. For as long as there’s been art, there’ve been art forgeries. Very popular was the Beltracchi case. Are there artists whose works you are reluctant to insure because they are forged so often?
Not really. After all, the problem of forgery is as old as time. Instead, we are witnessing a different trend. As a result of price developments on the art market, art works from all periods and styles are being forged. Pieces worth 5,000 euros are being forged at the same rate as those with a six- or seven-digit price tag. The manipulation of a work’s provenance, meaning its origin and history, is just as important as the copy itself. Most of the time, creating a provenance requires even more time and effort.
“Be careful if you smell something fishy in the work’s provenance”
As a result, we pay attention to the artist, but also to where the work is from and how complete the provenance details are. If someone tells us they’ve discovered a valuable object in the cellar of an old villa they’ve just purchased, we find that highly questionable.
The condition of the work also plays a role. Art conservation is very important for our customers, and we can offer them professional and competent advice, for example on storage, in order to maintain the original condition as long as possible. A watercolor painting or a drawing, for example, should not be exposed to harsh lighting.
“Our mission is to preserve art”
Another service offered by Allianz is to provide advice on restoration. Is the frame still stable? Has the canvas been damaged by frost, damp conditions or impact? We are always happy to give advice and support to our customers on these issues. What matters to us is the preservation of art, regardless of whether damage has already ocurred or could potentially happen in the future.
2. Art, like everything else, is going digital nowadays. Can Allianz also insure digital art?
Yes, of course. Digital art is a newer discipline, but the market is growing fast. Digital art poses a lot of new challenges to the insurance sector. There is a fundamental difference between the technological possibilities of digital art and the artwork from the old masters or other the canvas-based art.
“Making sure an artwork is properly restored is guaranteeing it remains insurable”
It’s difficult to predict the direction in which digital art is likely to develop in the future. Let’s take classic cars for example. They are suffering from mechanical damage, that can be repaired. A new model, such as a BMWi3, on the other hand, is equipped with a great deal of digital technology which could break down with age. If restoration is not possible, it might be difficult to insure an object – be it a classic car or piece of art.
3. Which art events would you recommend?
There are a few blockbuster events: TEFA (The European Fine Art Fair) in Maastricht in March, Art Basel in June and, of course, the Highlights International Art Fair in Munich in October. My first stop at these events are always our customers and partners. But it’s not just about staying in contact, we also receive first-hand feedback on supply, demand and trends in the art world.
This year, there will be a special exhibition dedicated to Hieronymos Bosch that will take place in the artist’s home town – in the Het Noordbrabants Museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Personally, I’m very excited about this exhibition especially as we are insuring some of the art works presented.