There is no doubt that the local art scene is abuzz, especially with the anticipated opening of Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris museum and the National Gallery Singapore this year. While interest in the arts continues to grow and more Singaporeans invest in and expand their collections, many do not see the need to insure their prized assets.
That, to David Scully, is a primary concern. “Traditionally, insurance penetration in Asia is much lower than in the West,” says the vice-president and senior underwriter for speciality insurance at insurance company XL Group, adding that many Asians prefer privacy and are reluctant to get a formal valuation. “They don’t necessarily want their family to know how much they have spent on art (in order to avoid unnecessary domestic strife),” says Scully. The 58-year-old Brit added that it’s also a case of “inertia”, as collectors don’t see the need and procrastinate over the matter.
Although Scully, who has been in fine-art insurance since 1991 and moved here in 2008, has seen an increase in art-insurance purchases here, he feels that the take-up rate is still not quite enough. “Affluent players tend to prefer going to a fair instead of 10 different galleries, as it saves time and works exhibited at a fair would already have been curated,” he says. But what they may not be aware of is that the pieces bought may be exhibited until the fairs conclude and, with crowds thronging showgrounds, the exposure to accidental damage increases exponentially.
Another commonly overlooked hazard is fire. “Owners are usually more concerned about theft because it seems more likely to happen,” says Scully. “But fire causes the biggest loss.”
This, unfortunately, happened to local artist couple Anthony Chua and Hong Sek Chern. According to The Straits Times, they lost 30 years’ worth of work, which amounted to about $20,000, in 2013, after a fire broke out in Telok Kurau Studios where they were based. Their works were not insured.
At the end of the day, make sure that every facet is covered in your policy – right down to the minute detail of logistical arrangements, Scully advises.
This, he hopes, will mitigate the trauma of loss.