Thefts Drive Up Demand for Art Insurance - Report

Tom Burroughes Deputy Editor London 5 June 2008

Thefts Drive Up Demand for Art Insurance - Report

Four months after the Swiss art scene was jolted by the theft of four 19th-century paintings, demand for private art insurance has risen sharply, the Swiss unit of German insurer Allianz said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Allianz Suisse, which moved into the art-insurance market in Switzerland three years ago, said that as of the beginning of June, premiums grew by about 30 per cent from the year-earlier level although it did not disclose the amount of the premiums.

In total, the company said it has insured artworks - including paintings and sculptures - valued at about SFr650 million ($624 million), up from about SFr200 million three years ago.

In February, four paintings by Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Edgar Degas, valued at about 180 million francs, were stolen from the Emil Georg Buehrle Collection in Zurich.

It was one of Europe's biggest art thefts and came only four days after two paintings by Pablo Picasso, both valued at several million francs, were taken from a cultural center in Pfaeffikon, a lakeside town near Zurich.

Two paintings from the Buehrle Collection have since resurfaced, but the Zurich police are still on the lookout for Cezanne's "Boy in a Red Waistcoat," an oil canvas whose insurance value stands at SFr100 , and Degas's "Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter."

Compared with the overall insurance market, the art-insurance market is relatively small. According to AXA Art, a unit of French insurer AXA, the world-wide market generates about €3.5 billion ($5.4 billion) in annual premiums.

However, growth rates are relatively high as the market advances by about 8 per cent a year, almost double the rate of the traditional insurance market, which grows by about 4 per cent a year, a figure in line with the global economy.

Given the market's boom, with a growing number of affluent and middle-class investors buying paintings and sculptures, the art-insurance market could grow even faster. More growth could come as many people have just started to insure their collections, Allianz Suisse said.

Traditionally, art either goes uninsured or is protected by property-and-casualty insurance. With the boom in the art market, however, the value of many artworks has risen sharply and is triggering the need for specialised insurance protection.

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