Gallery exhibits and insurance


I have been going through some calls for entries for shows that are
not aimed at metal artists. I repeatedly find applications (not sure
of the plural of “prospectus”) that state that artists exhibit at
their own risk, that the gallery doesn’t insure exhibited works and
takes no responsibility for loss or damage. At first, I just tossed
those. But I am seeing so many that I’m getting worried. Is this now
normal? What insurance company would be crazy enough to insure my
work when I have no controll over it? Must I just take a pass on all
of these? If I were showing 300 lb bronze sculptures, maybe I’d be
less concerned. What are you folks doing about this?

Thanks-- Noel

Dear Noel,

I can’t begin to tell you how many pieces, in thirty years of
exhibiting, I’ve had damaged and stolen. Please only exhibit with
galleries, museums, or shows which provide coverage for your work.
If you are unsure of the show’s validity, please ask for a
certificate of insurance.

In 1979, I had two valuable pieces (one approximately $2000 and the
other $3000) accepted to a show at Penn State. The prospectus said
that the gallery had insurance. When the pieces were returned to me,
after the show, with serious damage, I contacted the University.
After describing the situation and damage, I was asked if I had
photographed the shipping boxes before I opened them. And, had I
photographed the pieces as I was unwrapping them. The University
blamed the shipper. Since the boxes were in perfect shape and of
course I hadn’t photographed them, (who would!), I knew the damage
had been done by whomever handled the pieces at the show. When I
called again, I was passed from one person to another, each of whom
denied any responsibility. When the University stopped accepting my
calls, I enlisted legal aid to help me (at the time, I was a poor
artist in residence in Portland, OR). To make this long story not
too much longer, the University finally told my lawyer that I could
never afford to sue, that I was too far away, and that they had lied
in the prospectus (they had catastrophic insurance only) and that I
should dry up and blow away. Needless to say, I was devastated.

Shortly after that time, I had a letter published in the Craft
Report, explaining the situation, urging people to boycott uninsured
shows and to ask for a certificate of insurance when necessary.

As I mention earlier, I have had thousands of dollars of pieces
stolen and damaged over the years, and I have been happy, since Penn.
State, that I have been compensated for all.

My advice… Be careful and send a message to galleries who don’t
feel a sense of responsibility for their artists.

Happy but cautious,
Munya Avigail Upin

Recently I found out that my studio insurance (through Hartford, via
a group deal with the Artist Blacksmiths Assn of N America) does
cover business “personal property” while it’s in my vehicle or
someplace I don’t rent or own. It was an underwriter who said that
was what the “personal property off premises” rider meant. She also
said I could raise the limit when I needed to. Earlier, I’d talked to
a customer service person at Hartford who told me my work wasn’t
covered anywhere outside my studio or office. The underwriter said
well, be sure you ask an underwriter.

That doesn’t answer your question about whether or not the risk is
worth it, or whether or not the shows SHOULD insure our work. Of
course they should. But at least you should be able to get insurance
that covers your work when the show does not.

Catherine Jo Morgan