Climate change has created noteworthy challenges for people in the Fine Art industry. Hurricane seasons are increasing rapidly and with more intensity, as well as wildfires, flooding, and earthquakes – all a byproduct of climate change. Weather-related disasters in California, Florida, and other climate change disaster areas are significantly affecting the Fine Art industry by threatening the homes of artists and collectors, ruining the art itself.
While it is prudent for collectors to remain aware of geographical areas prone to disaster, preparing ahead and navigating potential repercussions is imperative.
Hotbed Zones and Impact
Fine art collectors renewing or obtaining insurance policies in affected areas face challenges as underwriters become more stringent in weighing the risks involved, increasing premium costs and adding new requirements.
Carriers are hesitant to take on additional risk in heightened zones with a risk history. Collectors with pieces in catastrophic event zones, or those consigning or lending from their collection in these zones, could face increases of as much as 25% in these areas – including deductibles equal to 5%-10% of a collection’s total value. It is essential to maintain conversations with insurers about coverages relating to expected weather events in the collector’s local area.
Collectors can mitigate their exposure by hiring a third-party catastrophe team to evaluate vulnerable zones to avoid or tapping into their broker’s risk management resources. They can also implement a disaster plan that identifies worst-case-scenarios and keep collections out of range of reoccurring natural disasters.
Implementing Climate Controls
Heat can be a major problem for works of art. With countries experiencing an uptick in major heatwaves, museums will need to invest in building climate control systems. Notably, many British and European museums that house priceless and historic works lack air conditioning. The lack of air conditioning is also a hazard to employees' and visitors' health, prompting many institutions to close entire wings in the face of unexpected conditions. Cold temperatures, too, can contribute to damaged art – pipes freezing, power outages, etc.
Extreme weather events also underscore the importance of climate controls for fine art storage facilities. Unexpected, long-duration heat waves and related environmental variables call for short- and long-term art storage that can protect collections, galleries, or entire museums. Systems should be in place to:
- Keep conditions at a constant 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep humidity levels set to 40-60% relative humidity.
- Have designated storage areas acclimated for paintings, sculptures, and other artworks.
Protecting from Climate Protestors
Climate activists are purposefully targeting irreplaceable works of art to draw attention to their message. From protestors attempting to glue themselves to Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” to throwing mashed potatoes at Claude Monet’s “Haystacks,” these acts of disruption attempt to raise awareness for climate change by capturing the media lens.
While it is too soon to tell if these incidents will drive insurance premium hikes for the fine art market, museums need to take steps to mitigate attacks while also maintaining accessibility for the public to enjoy their collections.
Museums and galleries can place a work behind UV plexiglass or glaze the artwork itself as steps in minimizing attempts at vandalism. However, it is important for museums to balance the work’s aesthetics and protection of the artwork. Additionally, buildings can add more security and implement a more stringent check-in process, as cans of soup, spray paint, knives or other potentially harmful items should raise red flags.
Preparing with Climate Change in Mind
Although underwriters give special considerations to coastal areas and other hotbed zones directly affected by climate change, those outside said zones should not feel impervious.
Unprecedented flash floods in New York City and similar extreme weather events should ring the alarm bells to keep climate change-related factors in mind during the renewal process. Collectors should stay vigilant of geographical weather trends and begin the renewal process early in response to new and evolving global warming challenges.
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