Making It Easy
Susan Jaffe, director of Guernsey’s auction house, may deal with a $10 million collection of guitars one day or a $25 million glass piece by Picasso or rare star rubies on other days.
Regardless of the type of valuable — or its storage and transportation needs — she counts on Kristina Marcigliano to give her the best advice and procure the best coverage.
“We are constantly hitting her with quite a range of needs and she’s always been very responsive,” said Jaffe. “Each collection that we handle has a different set of requirements.”
Marcigliano helped another auction house combine insurance programs during a merger to ensure there were no gaps. In the end, she secured higher limits at a lower premium for the merged company, and developed a jewelry insurance solution for consigned items. A director at the company praised Marcigliano and her colleagues for making the “process smooth and easy. There was no hassle.”
Marcigliano makes “the crazy insurance world a lot simpler than it actually is.”
Auction houses have many complex issues dealing with valuation, security and transport, said Kenneth McKenna, executive vice president and CFO of Doyle Auction House.
“We are not exactly your typical situation,” he said. “Kristina is very creative.”
This year, she created a hybrid policy that covers fine art items, furniture, jewelry and precious metals, including very high transit limits for jewelry coverage that allows the auction house more flexibility when pieces have to be transported.
In negotiating lender loan agreements, galleries have a mounting problem with “absolute liability creeping into contracts [regardless of insurance coverage],” said Joan Elisabeth Reid, chief registrar of Walters Art Museum. “It’s a major issue.”
Lynn Marcin at Aon subsidiary Huntington T. Block provided the museum with the contract language needed to successfully negotiate a very complex exhibition. “She’s there for everything we need.” said Reid.
“Some lenders make outlandish requests now, and Lynn works so hard to figure out what is a viable request and what we should absolutely not agree to,” said Patty Decoster, head of collections management and registration at Kimbell Art Museum. “[Marcin] is really good at knowing when a line can be crossed and when we should not agree to it, at getting everything she can for the lender from the underwriter but fabulous at protecting the Kimbell from going too far.”
“When you are trying to wrangle 50 lenders and shipping venues, and determine coverage needs in transit and on premises, and transit to the next institution, it can be nerve-wracking,” said Melanie Harwood, senior registrar at the Baltimore Museum of Art. “Lynn is good at being calm and saying, ‘This is what you can do,’ “ and coming up with the best solution possible.
“We do nothing but give her challenges. That’s our job and she fields them very well,” Harwood said.
A Mentor to the Art World
Because of its active lending program to museums in the United States and around the world, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art depends on Deborah Peak at Aon subsidiary Huntington T. Block to review the various foreign insurance policies and foreign government indemnity contracts.
It’s a complicated process, especially when the museum deals with different museums in different countries on different projects — all at the same time.
“That can be a little tricky,” said Julie Mattsson, exhibitions registrar at the museum. “Debby has been able to help make that more seamless than it certainly started out to be.”
And not that Mattsson ever forgets when international policy premiums are due, but Peak is always on top of it, and offers to expedite the process at the last minute, she said.
“Sometimes premium costs are pretty high so people don’t want to pay super early, but that means pretty often we get down to the wire,” Mattsson said.
Susan Leidy, deputy director of the Chrysler Museum of Art, said Peak “has been a mentor to many of us. She is absolutely phenomenal. She’s worked with major museums all over the world and she brings that experience to us.
“She’s not prescriptive. She doesn’t say, ‘You have to do this.’ She has a way of educating the client to do the right thing because it benefits everybody. She’s been doing this for a long time in a very low key, solid and professional way. Sometimes that doesn’t get recognized and it should get recognized.”
A Home Run Every Time
Paris Photo, a prestigious photography collection, was one of the many cultural events that were ordered closed following the terrorist attacks in Paris last year.
Knowing her fine arts clients could one day face a similar situation, Mary Pontillo worked with London to develop event cancellation expense coverage. It’s just one of the ways she works for her clients to expand coverage and stay competitive.
“We have unique art insurance requirements that are not what most people in the world have,” said Sharon Ullman, COO of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, who praised Pontillo’s work. Whether it’s shipping 67 containers of artwork to China or protecting a $35 million 191-panel artwork, Pontillo “made sure we were covered from here to there. We just call and say, ‘Here’s a new one for you.’ She makes it easy.”
Arlie Sulka, owner of Lillian Nassau LLC, renowned specialists in original Tiffany Studios lamps, said, “When you get good coverage from someone who is so knowledgeable about the industry and that you trust that much, you just don’t want to let that relationship go. Mary hits a home run every time.”
Added a gallery director, “Mary Pontillo is remarkable and she invested a considerable amount of time going through every page of [our] policy.”
“It’s the driest of subjects but she is very passionate about it,” she said, “And she is passionate about fine arts. That allows her to stand out in the industry.”
Anne Rappa at Aon subsidiary Huntington T. Block “is always available for my weird questions,” said Bianca Cabrera, registrar at Galerie Lelong.
Fine art insurance is complicated because pieces are “literally moving all over, all of the time, so we always need quick information,” she said. “She’s always willing to talk me through scenarios when we are not quite sure how things may play out.”
Recently, one of the artists associated with the gallery called in a panic because it was the night before the artist had to ship artwork created on a major public commission, and the contract-required insurance had never been procured, she said.
“Anne helped me set that up in a few hours to make sure that the piece was covered,” Cabrera said. “It was a huge, monumental piece, and it wasn’t a little amount of coverage we needed.”
Rappa recently authored a roadmap to help educate university risk managers about the complications involved in identifying, valuing and protecting their fine art and rare book collections. Angela Moss, director, office of risk management at Wayne State University, took advantage of that guidance.
“We never had a fine art policy before,” Moss said. “If we would have had a loss over $10,000, we would have suffered the loss.” The policy covers high-value items without needing to list each one or get appraisals. “Anne is a partner,” she said.
Making a Difference
When doing a $25 million upgrade to a museum, a public sector risk manager realized there were major coverage gaps at an associated facility owned by the public entity but operated by a nonprofit organization.
A dispute over which group was responsible to cover the historic artifacts and other items could not be resolved until Casey Wigglesworth at Aon subsidiary Huntington T. Block came on the scene. She worked with both groups to ensure proper valuation of items and policies to protect them.
“The result was she was able not only to get all parties to work together, which had never worked together, but she was also able to clearly see what each party had to do to get the right cover,” said the public sector risk manager.
Kelsa Coker, treasurer and general manager of Ely Inc., a service provider to museums and galleries, said Wigglesworth is “very responsive to my crazy requests. We are a small business and I look for responsiveness. I need someone to respond almost immediately so I can take care of clients who can be quite needy at times.”
Regardless of the time or request, Wigglesworth “is just there for me and makes me feel comfortable with what I am offering to my clients. She gives me piece of mind.”
“Casey takes us through what needs to be done to make sure we are properly insured,” said Marilyn Sohi, head registrar, permanent collection, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, including being available for questions about security, valuation, shipping and storage.