The 2019 Fine Arts Power Brokers
Kierstin Johnsen, Account Manager, Risk Strategies/DeWitt Stern
“Kierstin doesn’t just do it by the book or with the best practices; she’s doing her job at the highest level in extreme circumstances. Effortlessly, it seems,” Louie Lane, studio manager, IDY, LLC said.
His studio sends art all over the world, and this past year, Lane had several last-minute changes with a show on exhibit in Brazil. “They’re very strict with their policies. If any ‘i’ isn’t dotted or ‘t’ isn’t crossed, there would be trouble.”
Lane’s show had to move locations, leaving little time to prepare, and since he could not purchase the needed insurance, Kierstin Johnsen stepped in and worked with the studio and the institutions in Brazil to keep the art safe.
“She’s understanding of the circumstances that come with a living artist who houses their own artwork,” said Steve Polaner, studio manager, LaMonte Fine Art Inc. Polaner’s wife is that artist.
When the couple wanted to switch storage facilities, Johnsen knew what to do. “Through the convoluted turns, she was rock steady and stopped the enormous feelings of stress of the artwork being moved.”
“She is diligent, extremely responsive and timely,” added Marilu Knode, director, exhibitions and programs, Milwaukee Downtown Inc./Sculpture Milwaukee. As an outdoor exhibition of artwork, Milwaukee has to be up-to-date on insurance policy changes.
“Kierstin knows the nuances of our artwork, which is helpful in her giving me feedback on the additional security measures we take to protect the work and the public,” said Knode.
Rose Proby, Senior Vice President, Head of Fine Art, Marsh
“This year happened to be a year of dynamic change,” said Charles Reno, VP, risk management, Sotheby’s.
Broker Rose Proby was tasked with some major changes from Sotheby’s: Negotiate 14 different renewal options while facilitating approval support for a new art collector’s New York-based storage facility, all while securing a global art risks cover program for the record-breaking wine division that Sotheby’s recently entered.
“Her team provided us with extraordinarily clear diagrams of the year-over-year savings. When putting together our renewal program, Rose spoke with over 40 individual representatives who make up our program. And getting 40 representatives to the table is a Herculean feat itself,” Reno said.
“We have an eight-hour time difference, and I still get an almost always immediate response,” said Linda Somerville, risk manager, The J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty needed to increase its limits in what Somerville described as a very hard market.
Proby was able to increase coverage within 48-hours. “She loves art, so she understands art and the nuances behind it. It’s not just a desk that needs to be insured; its Louis XVI’s desk that needs to be insured. She knows her stuff.”
A third client said her institution’s policy is placed on behalf of a department that understands very little about insurance. “Rose responds to the wide variety of queries and concerns [that] come her way immediately and is able to explain in a way that speaks the language of her clients.”
Anne Rappa, Senior Vice President, Aon
Anne Rappa of Aon/Huntington T. Block likes to meet face to face. It’s a method that works for her.
“I met Anne through a class I was taking,” said one client. “Anne came to speak with the class, and afterwards I had her give a presentation to my team.”
“We’ve had Anne come and visit the museum to meet with the finance committee and review their collection coverages,” said Warren Bunn, collections and exhibitions manager, The Corning Museum of Glass.
David Gray, executive director, The Greenwich Collection, added, “She is glad to attend board meetings, explaining to the board what insurance options are best.”
But face-to-face isn’t where Rappa’s service stops; after speaking with her clients, she strives to get things done right.
The Greenwich Collection, for example, is a nonprofit, and “Anne works with incredible detail to ensure the coverages are the best fit for our nonprofit needs,” said Gray.
One senior director said that after a serious hurricane damaged an apartment under her company’s care, she leaned on Rappa. “She helped us source a local warehouse, movers, and she helped us source conservators at a moment’s notice.”
Right now, Bunn and his team are working on a 2019 exhibition featuring a survey of contemporary glass pieces. There are 100 artists across the globe being featured in the exhibit, and Bunn has been in constant conference with Rappa, trying to make certain they have the right coverage to get the pieces to the exhibit safely and within budget.
Molly Slattery, Account Executive, Aon
Private art collector David Werner had to ship a two-piece antique chair set from Finland to Sweden and then to the U.S. While they were in transit, Werner got the call — the package was lost.
“It was a 130-pound, 5-foot package,” Werner explained. “I called up Molly and she reassured me; ‘Don’t worry, we have them covered.’ Then she immediately put me in touch with the person who handles claims.” Within five hours, Molly Slattery made him feel comfortable about the situation. And luckily, a day later, the chairs were found.
Jeanne Jarvaise, another private art collector, was working to secure her father’s artwork after he passed but ran into a challenge: Some family members didn’t understand why she wanted to insure the art and took legal action. Because she could not get the art appraised, Jarvaise did not want to transport it off her father’s estate.
“My stress levels were super high, but Molly made it all easier, and she worked with me.” When a decision was reached, Jarvaise had four days to get the work inspected, appraised and transported. “She knew what needed to happen and the order it needed to happen in,” Jarvaise said.
Another client, Alvaro Leal, owner/corporate art collector, Global Pacifica LTD, has a large show to protect this year: “We put together a major exhibition, featuring artworks from Warhol, Basquiat, Haring, Clemente and B. Kruger.
“The insurance value was over $20 million, and we were working with multiple collectors. Molly worked very hard to obtain the proper coverage for this show in record time.”
Casey Wigglesworth, Assistant Vice President, Aon
What makes a good broker great? “I want to know that when I put the information together for an exhibition, that they will respond quickly and get all certificates of insurance together on time,” said Karen Frederick, curator of museum collections, Greenwich Historical Society.
For Frederick, Casey Wigglesworth fits that bill. The society was considering purchasing an expensive painting from a private collector and decided to house it on loan. The process set in motion two last-minute certificates of insurance.
First, to house the painting for a week, and then again for a two-month period. “Casey had to get the same certificate with the same amount of coverage for the same painting in just one week,” Frederick said.
The society had another instance where they borrowed paintings for an armory exhibition: “All I wanted to do was sleep here and make sure nothing happened to those paintings. But Casey made sure everything was in order and taken care of on time,” said Frederick. “When we’re talking about housing major paintings — paintings worth over $1 million — I’m happy to know it’s Casey getting it done, both in transit and onsite.”
Grant Quertermous, curator, Tudor Place Historic House & Garden, couldn’t agree more: “Any curator or collections manager will tell you that objects in the museum are like children — caring for them is expensive.
“When they travel, you’re concerned about their well-being from the minute they leave your museum until the minute they return. Casey shares that concern, so I always feel better knowing she’s looking out for the objects in our collection.”
Blair Wunderlich, Account Executive, Aon
Hillwood Museum wanted to include a Fabergé-exclusive exhibit in its facilities.
“These were rare artifacts to be borrowed from private collectors, museums around the world and the Prince of Monaco,” explained MJ Hagan, collections manager.
Broker Blair Wunderlich worked directly with the institute’s lawyers for each piece’s loan contract. She guided Hagan on whether adding the collection under their overall blanket policy made sense or if they should take out a separate policy just for the Fabergé.
“She facilitated meetings with other agents who worked on similar projects in larger museums to get us the advice we needed to take on this collection,” Hagan said.
And now, Fabergé artifacts — from the world-famous eggs to handcrafted sculptures — have a home at the Hillwood exhibition.
Kele McComsey, director, museum division at Mana Contemporary, said Wunderlich is great to work with: “She’s on top of things,” he said.
“And that’s really what your agent should be doing — going out and being active in your business.” For example, Wunderlich was integral in reviewing Mana’s policies. “She helped us navigate through recent claims,” and has been able to lower premium year over year while giving advice on best practices.
“Blair took over our account from a previous agent who retired,” said a third client. “We were having issues with our renewal due to claims from the year before, and Blair did incredible research to get us what we needed. She has been an invaluable resource to us.”