Home and contents insurance generally doesn’t cut it when it comes to protecting the world’s most precious collectibles
First published in jobpostings magazine
careers. education. ideas. all of it.
If you want an art career, but find the casually grinding poverty a little too depressing, a career in fine art insurance could be the solution. Fine art underwriting brings you in contact with the inside workings of the glamorous art world, while still paying enough to wear a nice dress to all those openings.
“As a child I was interested in art. I have British artist Edward Seago … in the family, and from a young age I was quite influenced by his work,” says Ann-Louise Seago, vice president of AXA ART Canada, a fine art insurance specialist.
“I did also have this interest in school in economics and business. So I consider myself quite lucky to have found something that I get to do the best of both worlds.”
Ex-pat Seago’s career has taken her from her native England, to New York, and now to Toronto, where she’s establishing AXA ART as Canada’s first insurer of fine art only. This industry niche—while comparatively small—is successful because home and contents insurance generally doesn’t cut it when it comes to the intricacies of protecting the world’s most precious collectibles.
And “art,” in AXA’s case, applies to many things: “Anything that can be bought and sold at auction that has an intrinsic value,” according to Seago, meaning jewellery, watches, rare books, manuscripts, photography, stamps and coins, musical instruments, antique cars, and vintage and collectible wine. “The beauty of that is the more society evolves, the more collectibles come to the fore,” says Seago. “I think the strangest example that we have as a collector in the Canadian operation is the Transformer figurines.”
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: one day you could be sharing your expertise on ‘90s era My Little Ponys—and getting paid for it. And maybe you will.
Still, determining the insurance value of objects like these is something of a dark art compared to insuring say, a washer-dryer. That’s because the insurance value of an art object is influenced by a complex combination of maker, relative rarity, age—and, if we’re going to be totally honest, what somebody else is willing to pay for it. Having to figure out this kind of information over a stream of gorgeous objects, Seago says, you get to learn a thing or two.
“Sometimes things will come in—Japanese calligraphy or something. It’s interesting to try and find someone that’s very knowledgeable in that area,” she says. “It means that every day for the most part, seems to be a little bit different.”
Holding the cards for so many exquisitely valuable items, it’s no wonder that after insurance, risk management plays a humongous role in Seago’s work. She says there are a huge range of factors to consider, from finding the most qualified company to ship a newly acquired piece from Brazil, to the safest way to display an easily pocketed Transformer toy.
“We are very much involved with programs that protect the cultural heritage of the art for it to be there for future generations,” says Seago. “We also set high standards for art storage facilities, which are quite a familiar practise for collectors that have way too many pieces in their collection and can’t literally house them all.”
Since arriving in Canada, AXA ART has been the insurer of choice for mega exhibitions like those of Picasso and Van Gogh, seen recently at the AGO and National Gallery respectively.