New Loss Database Launches Globally as Spending on Art, Antiques Remains Strong

Claims Journal 5 March 2015
By Denise Johnson

Spending on art and antiques will remain strong in 2015, according to a Chubb survey of attendees at the Winter Antiques Show in New York.

A majority of the respondents – 83 percent – plan to increase (39 percent) or keep their spending on arts and antiques the same (44 percent) in 2015. Conducted by the insurer and presenting sponsor of the show, the survey found that only 7 percent plan to decrease their spend, while 10 percent do not intend to make an art or antique purchase this year.

“Buyers’ appetites are clearly not satiated – even after 2014, when 42 percent of survey respondents increased their spending on art and antiques,” said Melissa Lalka, vice president and worldwide fine art manager for Chubb Personal Insurance. “Increased buyer activity, coupled with record-setting sales reported by the leading auction houses, can significantly impact art values – and collectors should keep in mind that their art and antiques can become alarmingly underinsured.”

Thirteen percent said they do not insure their art.

As interest in art collection remains strong, a London-based company has launched a new searchable resource for lost, stolen and disputed works of art and cultural heritage.

Though a database to record art-related losses already exists – it was created by the International Foundation for Art Research in New York in the 1990’s – the Art Recovery Group sought to improve upon it with the addition of image recognition software. In addition, the ArtClaim database can be used to record more than just thefts.

The company receives intelligence and tips from around the world, such as when a piece of art is loaned to a museum or when a border control agent observes art work crossing borders.

After 12 months of development in consultation with the art market, law enforcement and the insurance industry, the database launched earlier this year.

Art insurers wanted to be able to archive claims history within the database to avoid lost records – the result of mergers and acquisitions. Others wanted the latest technology and options.

“Every insurer, every underwriter that specializes in art had a special requirement,” said Christopher Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery Group, a company that serves as an asset recovery firm for insurers.

Responding to stakeholder needs, the database offers new ways of identifying and recording interests attached to works of art.

Technological innovation allows users of the database the ability to use image recognition technology along with more than 500 data fields to register or search items. In addition, users can opt to receive instant alerts

The managed database is available globally and overseen by the company’s international team of provenance research specialists and art market analysts. About 5,000 items are being added to the database every week.

“We expect several hundred registrations by year end,” he said.

The company has already recovered millions of dollars of artwork for insurers that were written under a homeowners’ policy, said Marinello, who has 20 years of experience in recovery lost or stolen artwork.

Some cases the Art Recovery Group has worked on include recovering a Chagall stolen in 2008 from Encino, Calif., and recovered along with eight other works in 2014; and a Matisse painting looted by the Nazis in the 1940s and later found in a Norwegian museum. The recovery, overseen by Marinello, was returned to the heirs of Paul Rosenberg from whom over 400 works were looted.

He said that loss records for uniquely-identifiable objects will always be free to register and competitive fees will apply to search requests and registrations for works on loan or in storage. In addition, the service is free to law enforcement and governmental entities.

“It serves as a good product that underwriters can offer their insureds to know that a cherished family heirloom can be returned simply by paying back the payout amount,” Marinello said.

A launch event is being held today to introduce the company to the U.S. market.

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