Insurance for Visual Artists and Photographers

INSURANCE FOR VISUAL ARTISTS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS: Another in our series of legal resources for creative people about.

  • Why do I need insurance?
  • Where can I buy insurance from?
  • What are the types of insurance a visual artist or photographer can get?
  • Are there any types of insurance I should make sure I have for certain projects?
  • What are some of the key things I should make sure that insurance covers me for in any situation?
  • Are there any types of events or things that I won’t be able to get insurance for?
  • If my work is with a gallery do I still need to have the work insured?
  • If the gallery isn’t going to insure my work what should I make sure my insurance in respect of my artwork covers?
  • What type of information do I have to provide when seeking insurance cover?
  • How can I make sure my insurance premiums stay as low as possible?
  • Can I get insurance to cover work being transported to or from a gallery?
  • Should it be my responsibility or the gallery’s to arrange insurance for transporting my work to and from the gallery?
  • What types of things will invalidate my insurance in any case?
  • Can I still get insurance cover if I am not operating through a company?
  • How much does insurance cost?
  • What details about my situation will an insurer want to know?
  • Will my policy be invalidated if I’m late with paying a premium?
  • If I have to claim under my insurance how long will it take to get paid out?
  • If I insure an artwork and it is damaged partially but I don’t think it can reasonably be repaired can I demand to be paid out for it or is it the insurance company’s decision?
  • If an insurance company pays out for a damaged beyond repair piece of artwork do they then own the artwork and can they do with it what they want?
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The information provided on this blog has been made possible by the funding received by from the New Zealand Law Foundation.

This Fact Sheet is not legal advice.  This information is intended to provide a general outline of the relevant legal issues and further professional advice should be sought before any action is taken in relation to the information contained in this Fact Sheet.
This checklist remains at all times the property of the Depot Artspace.  You may make use of this Fact Sheet only for your own personal information.  Under no circumstances may this Fact Sheet or the information in it be copied or distributed to any third party by you without the prior written agreement of the Depot Artspace.

Why do I need insurance?

As a practising artist or photographer you need insurance because:

  • you have a contractual responsibility to third parties; and
  • in the event of loss or damage caused to your property or the artwork or to third party property, you have a financial exposure could financially cripple you for a very long time.  

Where can I buy insurance from?

You can buy insurance from your bank or directly from the insurance company or you can buy your insurance through an insurance broker.  If you buy through an insurance broker they will work on your behalf and buy the types of cover that you require plus in the event of a claim the broker will fight on your behalf to ensure that you get the correct settlement.  A Broker is a professional insurance advisor.  

What are the types of insurance a visual artist or photographer can get?

The usual policies are available – motor vehicle, asset insurance, travel insurance, public liability, statutory liability, personal accident & sickness cover, business expenses cover and health insurance. 

Are there any types of insurance I should make sure I have for certain projects?

Contract Works insurance should be taken out for a major sculpture, Public Liability cover and Statutory Liability cover is also a good idea.

What are some of the key things I should make sure that insurance covers me for in any situation?

The main issue is to make certain that you are covered in the event that you accidentally cause damage to some other person’s property or your own. You also need to make certain that the sums insured are correct rather than just focusing on the amount of the premium. You should also be aware of the risks that are spelt out in any contract you have in respect of the production of a piece of artwork. You also need to look for occasions when you not only have to note your own interest in the insurance policy but also the interests of other entities that have an interest in the artwork in question that the insurance relates to. This should always be discussed with your lawyer at the time. 

Are there any types of events or things that I won’t be able to get insurance for?

You won’t be able to get insurance for certain risks that aren’t unforeseen or accidental, although generally speaking most risks that you can’t control will be covered.  Risks that are not unforeseen are risks such as trading risks, bad workmanship or bad quality control.  All of these are basically risks that relate to issues or events in respect of which you can control the outcome.  

If my work is with a gallery do I still need to have the work insured?

Yes. The gallery will usually state ‘All Care but no Responsibility’. They will care for the item whilst it is in their premises but if anything should happen to it they will not be held responsible. The gallery owner will probably have their own liability policy which will apply only if they are found to be negligent e.g. they caused the damage such as where they drop an artwork or they did not have the correct level of security on the premises and the item was stolen.  Even if they do have liability cover there is no guarantee that there will be a payout and there is no guarantee that they will pay out what you perceive the item is worth. The insurer under a Public Liability Policy will always pay out the least amount possible.  Also as every situation will be different, to work out what the actual situation is with the particular insurance held by a gallery in any instance you should always check with the gallery terms of contract and make appropriate specific enquiries of the gallery. 

If the gallery isn’t going to insure my work what should I make sure my insurance in respect of my artwork covers?

You should cover the item for accidental loss or damage caused by fire, theft, burglary, malicious damage, earthquake, loss of profits and transit to and from the gallery. Please note that the artwork can be covered under a Material Damage Policy (Asset cover). The basis of settlement will be for the costs of materials, labour and costs of framing etc. Notice that no profit is mentioned.  However if you have a claim for the damaged piece and you only claimed for the costs of production you can still put in a claim for the consequential loss of profit that was incurred due to the loss . This is also very important for Earthquake claims. You should always make sure that the policy covers your specific requirements. 

What type of information do I have to provide when seeking insurance cover?

You will have to provide all the information that relates to the potential risks so that an insurer understands exactly what the risk is.  A good way of thinking of this if you were an insurer and you were going to cover the risk what information would you want to know?  Don’t forget that at the end of the day the insurer is gambling based on your information and they are wagering that

the loss is going to occur and if it does they have to have the money to pay you for the loss. The term ‘uberimai fides’ is often used in insurance which means ‘Utmost Good Faith’ and this really applies as much to the insurer as it does to the insured.  At the end of the day the insurer trusts in you to provide all the correct necessary information and you in turn trust that the insurer will pay out in the event of a loss. 

How can I make sure my insurance premiums stay as low as possible?

You can accept a high excess for the first loss, you can put in management systems which will mitigate the likelihood of a claim, you can work with the insurer and follow their instructions. The insurer has a vast amount of information on risks and experience on how to reduce the risk. 

Can I get insurance to cover work being transported to or from a gallery?

Yes you can. This comes under Transit Cover. You need to be very careful with this risk. A cheap premium usually means a cheap cover. Some policies covering the assets have an automatic cover for transit.  However in these cases the cover is usually limited to a dollar figure and it will only cover for such things as theft, vehicle fire or accident on the road.  The cover that you should look for is under Institute Cargo Clauses A. This covers the item for damage whilst in transit from point A to point B and it covers it for damage due to it falling over or being damaged whilst being loaded or being damaged by another piece of artwork.   

Should it be my responsibility or the gallery’s to arrange insurance for transporting my work to and from the gallery?

This depends upon prior agreement between you and the gallery.  Generally speaking however if you can afford it, it is always good to be in control and therefore you should arrange the insurance on the item.  If you do this you are not dependent upon some other person for your interests being protected. 

What types of things will invalidate my insurance in any case?

Telling lies and not following the rule of trust. Insurance does not cover any criminal activity or fraud. If you are caught then this is a very serious matter and it can destroy your ability to get insurance ever again.  If the risk is not as the insurer had thought or the risk has changed from what was originally described you can maintain cover in these instances by keeping the insurer informed and they will have the right to change the terms in accordance with their perception of the risk.  Again it comes down to trust.  You must maintain that level of trust and take appropriate steps to manage any potential risk at all times.

Can I still get insurance cover if I am not operating through a company?

Yes. 

How much does insurance cost?

This depends on the risk to be insured and how much you wish to insure for. It is never a good idea to underinsure as you are only damaging yourself and other parties reliant upon you for payment. You don’t have to take all the types of insurance that are available to you but there is also an element of risk management which can be used e.g. insure the big risks that are going to financially cripple you in the event of a disaster such as by investing in Public Liability, Statutory Liability, Contract Works and Loss of Income insurances.  

What details about my situation will an insurer want to know?

What is the item that is being created?  What sort of materials are being used?  Where is the item being made?  What type of tools are used to make the item?  Is there anything hazardous in the process of construction?  Is there any welding and if so you will be required to follow the safety guidelines as set down by the insurer.  What is the security of the building in which the item is being made?  What is the fire protection (give full details of fire extinguishers sprinklers etc)?  Do you share the premises with any one else?  What is the value of the plant and tools that you are using?  What is the value of the item when complete excluding profit?  What is the value of the materials?  How long will it take to make the item?  Where will the item go when completed?  What are the storage facilities like?  Do you wish to have transit cover?  Are you a tenant within the building in which you are making the item?  Have you signed any contracts for the production of the item?  Are there any other sub contractors involved?  There will always be other questions that an insurer will ask you as well, as no risk is exactly the same. 

Will my policy be invalidated if I’m late with paying a premium?

Yes 

If I have to claim under my insurance how long will it take to get paid out?

This will always depend on the cover given and the complexity of the risk however in general a normal claim can be sorted within one week.  Delays in settling claims are usually caused by bad communication, misunderstandings of the process to be followed and inability to provide supporting financial documentation to prove the claim to the insurers.  

If I insure an artwork and it is damaged partially but I don’t think it can reasonably be repaired can I demand to be paid out for it or is it the insurance company’s decision?

Everything is subject to negotiation. The bottom line is the settlement must be fair and reasonable to all parties concerned. You also cannot be seen to be profiteering from a claim, in other words you can’t end up in a better position from having the loss occur.  If the item cannot be repaired then the insurer will listen to what you have said but they will also have the right to seek independent evaluation because at the end of the day they are the people that hold the cheque book.  If it can not be repaired they will settle for the costs that you incurred to produce the item. There will not be settlement for the loss of any profit you could have made on the sale of the item unless you purchased a Business Interruption Policy.

If an insurance company pays out for a damaged beyond repair piece of artwork do they then own the artwork and can they do with it what they want?

Yes because they have purchased the item from you.  However there can be some negotiation on this issue as well but it is far better to deal with the question at the start of the insurance contract rather than at the end. 

We’d like to thank John Barley of Barley Insurances for his assistance in preparing this information www.barley.co.nz)

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash