What if your new, $500,000 piece of contemporary art is made of candy, and your dog eats part of it?
Can you just go to the candy store and buy replacement pieces?
In today’s world of contemporary art, such a question is not unheard of.
A length of string, 60 tons of scrap metal, flowing water, food, dust and even animal feces can be the makings of fine art in the contemporary art world, which means caring for art is no simple job. In fact, it may be an art unto itself.
“Anything an artist can find can be made into art today,” says Maggie Reynolds, senior fine art specialist at Chubb insurance.
Caring for artwork used to amount to tips like, don’t hang the painting over the fireplace. Now it could mean having the right lighting at the correct angles because the artist wanted the shadows to be part of the three-dimensional work.
Once a collector has purchased a piece from a museum, dealer or another collector, the transportation and installation are among the first issues to be considered.
“You have to be aware the materials used in the work may not be what they appear to be. Works today can be made of unusual materials, including wax, rubber, dust, bubble gum or even elephant dung. You need to know what you are buying,” Reynolds adds.
Artworks of all types have been climbing in value since the financial crisis. “In 2014 global art sales amounted to approximately 50 billion euros with the highest demand coming from the U.S., China and the U.K.,” says Oliver Class, art expert for Allianz Suisse.
“In the current sustained low-interest-rate environment, property assets such as art or real estate are becoming an ever more appealing investment. This is leading to a dramatic increase in the value of individual artworks,” he says.
To protect that value, each piece needs a certificate of authenticity—something that is arguably as valuable as the artwork itself. The certificate will spell out the conditions that the artist requires for display. It also will stipulate what the artist wants done if the work should become damaged or deteriorates, the art experts explain.
So when the pooch eats the artwork, it’s the artist who decides what to do.
“If the artist is living, he should be brought into the discussion before a piece is insured,” Class says. “Some artists want a piece to remain in a 100 percent perfect state. Others are more flexible. You have to think of potential damage before the fact, not after it has occurred.”
Reynolds adds, “If a piece is made of fragile Post-it notes and one falls off, can the owner replace it? That may be up to the artist.”
An artist can renounce a piece if it is damaged or if it is restored improperly, which would make the piece worthless.