Kerry London News

Protecting art and antique investments

Monday 30th January
Protecting art and antique investments

The global art market performed strongly in 2021. Art and antiques sales by dealers and auction houses reached an estimated $65.1 billion, up 29% from 2020. These values also surpassed pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

Protecting valuable collections requires expert advice. Whether purchased for pleasure or investment purposes, art and antiques need expert care to maintain their appearance and value. Lee Partner looks at how owners and investors can protect, secure, and care for their collections and minimise the risk of damage while in transit.

Professional valuations and photographs

Kerry London can arrange cover for the risks associated with moving art and antiques, but they will require up to date valuations. A high net worth insurance broker can advise owners to update fine art and antique valuations every five years, so they’re fully insured in line with current market value. Insurance valuations require retail replacement values and not auction or probate values.

Providing documentary evidence for the provenance of each item will help the valuer and insurer identify the correct value. Photographs are important for insurers and can speed up the claims settlement process in the event of a loss. Insurers generally ask for photographs to include the sides of antiques and both sides of paintings (back and front).

Security advice

Your broker can also recommend security marking fine art and antiques. Systems such as SmartWater use a non-hazardous combination of chemicals, and when dry, SmartWater is virtually impossible to remove. It cannot easily be seen under normal lighting conditions but will glow under ultraviolet light. Micro-dots containing a unique reference number applied to various locations on an item can also help track art.

Another helpful tool is asset tracking software such as Fortecho (Art Register Tracking Software).

Protecting fine art and antiques – temperature and humidity

Sudden changes in temperature and humidity can be more structurally damaging to art and antiques than any other environmental element.* Ideally, art and antiques should be stored at a temperature of between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit (21-24 degrees Celsius) with between 40% and 50% humidity levels. If the temperature or humidity fluctuates dramatically, it can cause damage, such as mould or surface cracking. Gradual temperature and humidity changes allow materials to expand and contract without causing problems such as splitting layers and loose joints.

Heat also exacerbates damage to items such as photographs, which worsens when combined with humidity. Escape of water claims are a significant problem for wealthy homeowners with multiple bathrooms. It’s advisable to avoid hanging art directly under bathrooms, water tanks, or water cylinders. Water leaks from above or via pipework in external walls can penetrate through brick and stonework, so it’s an essential consideration for art collectors.

Lee Partner, Head of Private Clients and Commercial, said:

“Paintings hung over fireplaces can be damaged by the heat and smoke damage. Likewise, placing art in regular direct sunlight can cause fading, particularly watercolours. Seeking expert advice when planning an art display at home will ensure owners can enjoy their collection while preserving the life and value.”

Moving fine art and antiques

According to the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, the pandemic encouraged philanthropic giving among some HNW collectors. High net worth collectors donated more works to museums in 2022, up from 29% in 2021 to 43%. This increased philanthropy resulted in more art in transit and, therefore, art and antiques are more exposed to damage. While museums will use professionals to transport valuable items, private owners may not, but it’s advisable to take a similar approach. Professional transportation services will ensure that the individuals moving the items are fully aware of important considerations such as:

  • Protecting any inherent weaknesses that could be made worse by moving.
  • Pictures are wrapped in thin, non-acidic paper and then covered in non-porous material such as plastic wrapping.
  • Storing pictures vertically when in transit, with the space between items filled with packing material to avoid any unnecessary movement which could cause damage. Never lean works of art against one another.
  • Once delivered, art and antiques should remain packed for at least one day to prevent damage caused by sudden exposure to any changes in air temperature.

Special care for paintings

Using professional art hangers is a worthwhile investment to ensure your art doesn’t slip off the wall. Professionals will ensure art is hung with the correct equipment. A professional will look at the materials used on the back of the art and the weight and size of the item. They will also hang art away from things such as ventilation systems, doors or anything that could expose it to weather or dramatic temperature related damage.


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Kerry London is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The company is a leading UK independent and Lloyd’s accredited broker, which means that we work with a wide range of niche and major insurers.

This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such or regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. In preparing this note, we have relied on information sourced from third parties, and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to the fullest extent permitted by law.

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