Art Collection Protection: A Guide for Insurance Brokers during Hurricane Season

Art collections are priceless and irreplaceable. In the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, financial loss can be devastating. That’s why it’s crucial that clients rely upon their brokers to fully understand their exposure and ensure they’re obtaining appropriate protection for their collections.

In this guide, we will provide you with important information and tips on how to protect your clients’ art collections during hurricane season. Your understanding of coverage options available for specialty property and ability to help implement preventative measures will ensure that your clients’ prized possessions are fully protected. With the right preparation and strategies in place, you can provide your clients with peace of mind and minimize the potential financial impact of a hurricane on their art collections.

Preparing for a Hurricane

In the event of a natural disaster, specialty collections are particularly vulnerable to damage and loss. To mitigate these risks effectively, brokers working with art collections must prioritize acquiring adequate insurance coverage, devising emergency plans, and advising clients of necessary precautions. Helping your clients prepare for hurricane season can be made easier by following the suggestion below.

Risk Assessment

Conducting a thorough risk assessment that includes steps like these is crucial for art collectors to prepare for potential natural disasters.

A comprehensive risk assessment first entails evaluating the location of an art collection and determining potential risks that are unique to the region, such as high winds, heavy rainfall, distance to shore, or flood zone. Next, consider the value and medium of each piece in the collection, as high-value pieces or those made of delicate materials may require extra protection or relocation.

Additionally, assess the disaster plans and insurance coverage at any related art storage facilities that may be in use to ensure that the collection is adequately protected while at those premises.

Encourage your clients to become aware of their particular risk factors to implement appropriate protections, including ensuring that a well-defined disaster plan is in place, as discussed below in greater detail. This proactive approach will fortify their preparedness and mitigate potential losses during hurricane season.

Making an Emergency Plan

By helping your clients create an emergency plan, you can significantly reduce the risk of damage to their collections when disaster strikes. While the below steps are important for ensuring the security of a client’s collection, the safety and security of the client and any other members of the household should always come first.

Consider the following components:

  • Evacuation Procedures: Clients living in high-risk areas should have a clear understanding of evacuation procedures, identify evacuation routes, know when to evacuate, and identify safe houses in case of an emergency. Backup plans may include relocating property to a storm closet or contracting with a dedicated fine art packer/shipper to ensure art transportation vehicles and personnel are readily available ahead of a potential event. It is important to consider the cost and feasibility of a professional art evacuation contract, as this may exceed the value of the property in question. Part of an effective evacuation plan may involve assessing which pieces are easily movable.  By formulating a specific plan for high-priority artworks, including packing and transport, collectors can drastically improve their odds of protecting their collection.
  • Emergency Contacts: Ensure your clients have an up-to-date list of emergency contacts, including, but not limited to, brokers, claims handlers, packers, shippers, conservators, and other relevant professionals, as well as caretakers, relatives, or neighbors (especially if it’s a secondary residence) who may be able to assist ahead of a storm. This list should be stored securely, ideally offsite and/or in the cloud, and be easily accessible in case of emergency.
  • Protection: Clients can add an additional layer of protection to their artworks and collectibles by storing pieces that are not on display or are of particular value (while the residence is not in use) within an art storage facility with a backup generator capable of keeping pieces at the right temperature and humidity levels.  Within the storage facility, artworks can be additionally safeguarded by steps such as waterproof coverings, enforcing stillage (keeping artworks a minimum distance from the floor), and moving artwork to higher ground, including a higher floor within the building. Consider utilizing archival-quality materials, such as acid-free packaging, for storing and transporting artworks. Employ custom-made crates or padded containers to provide additional protection during transportation or relocation. A professional fine art packer/shipper should always be consulted prior to packing.
  • Proper Documentation: Proper documentation of the art collection’s current condition will be key in the event of damage or loss. We recommend creating or supplementing an inventory list that documents each piece’s location, description, and value and taking high-quality photos of each piece. This will help in filing an insurance claim and establishing a value for reimbursement. Keep a copy of relevant appraisals, invoices, or any estate plans in a safe place away from the location.

Securing Valuable Collections

Here are key best practices to secure valuable collections during a hurricane event.

1. Invest in Hurricane Shutters: If your client has a collection in a coastal area prone to hurricanes, investing in hurricane shutters or high-impact hurricane glass is essential. These measures will help protect the collection from strong winds, flying debris, and water damage. 

2. Have a Backup Generator: Loss of power is a common occurrence during a hurricane event. Therefore, whenever feasible, it is crucial to have a backup generator at the residence or storage facility where the collection is located. This will help maintain the proper temperature and relative humidity (RH) required to protect the artwork and other contents of the home.

3. Move Valuables to Upper Floors and Away from Windows: If flooding is a concern, it is advisable to move the collection and other valuables to the upper floors of the building and away from windows. This will help reduce the risk of water damage from flooding. Collections on lower flowers that cannot be relocated to a higher floor should be properly secured and ideally elevated off the floor.

4. Bring Outdoor Sculptures Inside: Outdoor sculptures are particularly at risk during hurricane events. As an insurance broker, you can recommend bringing any movable sculptures inside. If it’s not possible to bring the sculptures inside, they can be wrapped in burlap or blankets tied with rope. Custom crating can also be fabricated so that the sculptures can remain in place and have a hard, protective layer during a storm event. This will prevent flying debris from damaging them during the hurricane.

5. Securing Art Left on the Walls: If there are any pieces of art that cannot be moved, such as murals or large installations, they should be properly secured on the walls and protected from exposure to the elements. It may be necessary to bring in a professional art installer or conservator, as they will have the necessary supplies and expertise to properly secure pieces in place. Artwork leaning against or propped up in front of walls should also be secured to prevent damage to the art or walls themselves.

Reviewing Insurance Policies

It’s vital to ensure that your client’s fine art and collectibles insurance policy provides adequate coverage and accurately reflects the collection’s value. Regularly updating the policy is essential to account for changes like new acquisitions or shifts in value resulting from fluctuations in the art market.

  • Adequate Coverage: Assess policy language to ensure they meet the specific needs of each art collection. High-value or culturally significant pieces may require specialized coverage or additional endorsements.
  • Accurate Valuation: Verify that the policy reflects the current value of the collection. Collaborate with appraisers and relevant specialists to conduct updated valuations.
  • Regular Updates: Emphasize the importance of reviewing and updating policies regularly. Adjust coverage promptly for new additions or deletions from the coverage, fluctuations in value, movement of property between locations, or the addition or removal of new permanent addresses housing covered property.
  • Specialist Providers: Consider partnering with insurance providers specializing in art insurance like Distinguished to obtain tailored coverage from specialist underwriters and expertise in claims handling. Obtaining coverage from a dedicated Fine Art insurer can provide clients with broader coverage, better limits, and lower deductibles than are typically found with standard programs.
  • Documentation: Advise clients to maintain duplicate records of their complete inventory, particularly noting any changes to their collection, including new acquisitions, provenance, appraisals, and value alterations.

By reviewing and updating insurance policies diligently, you protect clients’ art collections from potential coverage gaps, ensuring comprehensive protection for their valuable assets.

After the Storm Passes

Assessing Damage and Cleaning Up Debris

Educating your clients on the crucial steps to take after a hurricane or any natural disaster is vital in minimizing further damage to their art collections. Acting swiftly is essential, as high humidity, fluctuating temperatures, and changing exposure to light can accelerate the development of mold and various other forms of damage.  It is important to emphasize that while these steps below may be beneficial, they are not mandatory or appropriate in every case. We strongly advise clients to seek professional assistance for covered items that may potentially result in a claim.

  • Assessing Damage: This is the first step after an event. The collector should take photos of any damage to their art and other collectibles and contact you as quickly as possible to start the claims process. Insureds should also survey their property and check for fallen trees or downed power lines, which could pose a threat to their location, personal safety, or collections.
  • Furniture Preservation: Furniture is particularly vulnerable when flooding occurs because of the materials it’s made of, so it’s important to check for loose, damaged, or deteriorating fabric and wood. Insureds should arrange to have affected pieces of furniture treated by a conservator as soon as possible. For wet objects, gently blot off excess moisture with towels or blotting paper, and when possible, move damaged items to a dry and temperature-controlled environment to prevent mold and slow further damage.
  • Unwrapping and Preservation: Removing wet backings, mats, and frames is also essential in preserving the artwork after a hurricane or storm event. Any remaining wrapping on outdoor objects should be removed, and the sculpture should be rinsed with clean water. All movable works should be placed in an air-conditioned area to prevent mold from developing. In case there is no power, moving works to a lighted area with adequate air movement is the next best option.
  • Dusting and Cleaning: A fine layer of salt may have been deposited on works during the storm, so it’s vital to carefully dust and clean secure works with a soft brush and wipe metal objects with a soft cloth. Gently removing any visible accumulation of foreign material can delay or prevent further damage, but it is important to assess whether doing so may create additional damage. In the case of highly fragile or valuable items, such treatments should always be left to a professional. If insurance brokers can stress the importance of proper storage and handling of artwork and collectibles, it may lessen the damage that could occur in natural disasters such as hurricanes.
  • Property Removal: Whenever possible, valuable items that have been damaged should be moved to a secure location. Ideally, any property still located in a damp or otherwise affected area should be relocated within the home or business to a dry and temperature-controlled area. If no such location exists, or pieces are too large or damaged to be removed or relocated, clients should work together with their broker and claims loss adjuster to have property removed by a professional packer and shipper to a secure location with environmental controls in place at the facility.
  • Contacting a Conservator: Advise insureds to promptly contact a professional conservator to minimize damage to paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Conservators possess the expertise and necessary techniques and materials to stabilize artworks and mitigate further deterioration. Once an assessment and proposal have been put together, clients can work together with you and the loss adjuster to make decisions on taking the next steps.

In the aftermath of a hurricane or any natural disaster, the task of cleaning up debris and assessing property damage can be overwhelming. As you assist your clients in navigating this intricate process and filing insurance claims, it is essential to emphasize the prioritization of safety. Encourage them to place their health, well-being, and the safety of their communities above all else. Advise following instructions from local authorities, using proper protective gear, and remaining vigilant of potential hazards. By prioritizing safety, your clients can contribute to a responsible and secure recovery process for themselves and their communities.

How Distinguished Can Help

The first step towards getting your client insured through Distinguished is to sign up your agency. Once this process is complete, you can easily proceed by filling in and submitting your application.

When filling out the application, make sure to provide essential details such as security information, the property to be covered, and the loss history. To make things convenient for you, we also accept ACORD applications along with a Distinguished supplemental form.

In certain cases, we may require additional information, such as a copy of a consignment agreement for a dealer or a comprehensive description of the collection. Our aim is to offer you a hassle-free business experience while assisting you in growing your enterprise.

If you have any questions or need further assistance regarding our Fine Art and Collectibles Insurance, please feel free to reach out to us at For more detailed information about our insurance product, you can visit our dedicated Fine Art and Collectibles Insurance product page.

About Distinguished Programs

Distinguished Programs is a leading national insurance Program Manager providing specialized insurance programs to brokers and agents with specific expertise in Fine Art and Collectibles, Environmental and Construction Professional, Executive Lines, Inland Marine, Real Estate & Builder’s Risk, Community Associations, Hotels, and Restaurants. Property and Liability products are distributed through a national network of agents and brokers. Serving the same core markets and partnering with the most stable and reputable carriers, Distinguished’s high-limit Umbrella programs remain the clear choice in its area of specialty for superior coverage, competitive pricing, and attentive service. Through thoughtful innovation, stemming back to 1995, Distinguished Programs fosters growth and opportunities for its brokers, carriers, and employees.

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