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Collectors - who are they and how do we support them?



Who are collectors today?

Philippe Bouchet: Essentially, collectors are people who are passionate – and that’s always been the case. During the Renaissance era, large collections were formed by enthusiasts who would accumulate their objects in curiosity cabinets. That hasn’t changed much to this day. What has evolved is the way art is commercialised, in that today art can be bought in galleries, at large international fairs, at auctions, online or through art dealers, art advisors or antiques dealers.

Mathilde Duthoit-Michelet: I agree. Collectors haven’t really changed; rather, it is the nature of collections that has changed. The evolution of what is considered art has meant that philatelists –stamp collectors–, bibliophiles –book collectors– and pannapictagraphists – people who collect comics –, and even jewellery enthusiasts, have become collectors. Companies may also own objects, prototypes or sketches that are rare and have historical value or a heritage character, which can be viewed as art. Those that do, therefore, also are collectors.

Are there different types of collectors?

PB: A few years ago, we set ourselves the task of identifying different profiles of collectors by carrying out a global survey (Collectionner à l’ère du numérique, Grande Enquête Mondiale 2014 sur les Collectionneurs). This allowed us to differentiate several types of collectors: the Passionate, the Traditionalists, the Investors and the Hybrids. Each has its specificities, but most simply trust their gut when buying a piece of art and choose art they actually like. We also found that what matters most to collectors is their relationship with a piece, before even its quality, its value – real or potential – or its rarity and originality.

Does the type of collector come into play when supporting a client?

MDM: Given the diversity of profiles of both collectors and collections, no two clients are the same and the coverages we provide vary greatly from one collector to the next. We do, however, advise all collectors to protect their collections, mitigate the risks they’re facing and, where it makes sense, insure them. In doing so, underwriters have to gather as much information as possible on their clients’ collections, through their brokers or art advisors.

PB: When we meet art enthusiasts and collectors, we speak to them about prevention and protection techniques that are best suited to their needs. We are able to discuss art conservation and direct them to restoration experts, transport and storage professionals that specialise in fine art and collectibles. We sometimes encourage our private clients to update the inventory and valuation of their art to make sure it aligns with the market.

How do you support collectors?

PB: We value our relationships with the collectors we work with. Our approach focuses on the artwork, its nature and sensibility, which requires us being well-versed in both art and underwriting. We approach each client differently, depending on whether we’re talking about antique paintings, modern art installations, primitive art or archaeology. Our experience, expertise and knowledge allow us to offer up the most relevant insurance solutions, no matter the type of art.

MDM: We want collectors to feel confident that their needs and the specificities of their collections will be considered. A large collection that is often lent to museums cannot be protected in the same way as one that is stored in a safe or warehouse. That is why we offer a variety of flexible coverages to cover collections when they are shown at exhibitions, in storage, in transit, etc. Clients benefit from our experience in complex risks and our knowledge of speciality insurance, especially in transport insurance.

Do you deal with very large collections any differently, due to the amount of items owned or their value?

MDM: Since our approach is technical and tailored, large collections are examined with utmost attention and covered through specific solutions. The value of those collections, even as they rise, usually falls within the large limits we are able to provide. Generally speaking, one of the issues large collectors face is the fact that their collections are spread across several locations, as they may own several residences across the world, for example. However, those risks can be covered by a single contract through what we call global programmes.

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