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From museum exhibitions to the everyday business of art dealers, works of fine art are frequently in transit. Without proper care, art inventory in motion can present a big risk of damage or loss.

As a fine art underwriter, most of the claims I see are related to transit or water damage. Usually, this is a matter of not preparing the artwork properly or using inappropriate packing techniques. Works can be severely damaged when they are accidentally dropped during handling or inadvertently exposed to the elements. Murphy’s Law applies to accidental transit damage for fine art: if something can go wrong, it will go wrong – and typically at the worst time.

Condition reports are commonly used by museums when other institutions borrow art. Documenting the condition of artwork with pictures is important to determine whether any damage occurred during transit.

If you’ve ever attended an art exhibition featuring works on loan, or a gallery showing art curated from faraway locations, you may not realize that the art on view likely was transported by a specialized industry that focuses on fine art.

Specialists in art logistics include packers and shippers with expertise and purpose-built equipment. Valuable and fragile works aren’t just stuffed into any old box with polystyrene or biodegradable “peanuts.” Similarly, bubble wrap may be OK for protecting everyday items, but it can damage art by leaving permanent marks or trapping moisture. The experts in transporting fine art use custom crates to stabilize items and non-reactive materials that will not harm pigments and finishes. Trucks that haul artwork typically have special hydraulic cushioning systems, to provide the smoothest ride possible.


 In almost all cases, stand-alone insurance coverage is preferable. This type of coverage is flexible and can be structured creatively to protect fine art in a wide variety of situations.

It’s important to know that postal services, parcel delivery companies and even specialized art transporters do not provide indemnity. If they offer any recompense for damage, it generally is a nominal amount. 

Cultural institutions, art dealers and private collectors all appreciate the uniqueness and value of fine art, and they have a shared interest in safeguarding it – no matter where the art may travel. Just as using art specialists for packing and shipping is the smart move, so is relying on risk management and insurance experts who work with fine art on a daily basis.

Even though different personal and commercial lines policies may offer some coverage for art objects, it may not be adequate or address unusual circumstances that can arise. In almost all cases, stand-alone insurance coverage is preferable. This type of coverage is flexible and can be structured creatively to protect fine art in a wide variety of situations.

XL Catlin has a long history of insuring fine art and a global team with vast expertise in underwriting and claims. Because we work with many different organizations in the art community, we understand the art business and its risks. Please talk to us about how best to protect your collection, inventory or pieces on consignment.

Eyes on the prize

And speaking of “Art in Transit”… XL Catlin has launched a nationwide competition, the XL Catlin Art Prize, to recognize and exhibit works by art students in the United States. The U.S. prize complements previous programs and exhibitions that XL Catlin has sponsored internationally. The Prize gives XL Catlin the perfect platform to highlight new artists and provides a unique insight into emerging talent across the country.

Developed in partnership with the New York Academy of Art, the XL Catlin Art Prize is open to figurative paintings, drawings and prints created by undergraduate and graduate art students. With a First Prize of $10,000, the competition will focus on the reemergence of figurative art in the contemporary art world.

Panels of art juries will review digital submissions to select 40 works for a 2018 exhibition that will be on view in San Francisco Aug. 20 to Oct. 7, in Chicago Nov. 3-8, and at the New York Academy of Art Nov. 21-29. The final Prize jury, comprised of renowned painters: Nicole  Eisenman, Eric Fischl and Amy Sherald will judge and award the winning entries when the touring exhibition arrives in New York.For information on the XL Catlin Art Prize, please visit


Jennifer Schipf is head of XL Catlin’s Fine Art and Specie business and Broker Client Management for Global Lines. Before joining XL Catlin in 2008, she led U.S. fine art underwriting at a global insurance company. She has extensive career experience and knowledge of fine art, and worked at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., before entering the insurance industry. She can be reached at


Global Asset Protection Services, LLC, and its affiliates (“AXA XL Risk Consulting”) provides risk assessment reports and other loss prevention services, as requested. This document shall not be construed as indicating the existence or availability under any policy of coverage for any particular type of loss or damage. AXA XL Risk. We specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that compliance with any advice or recommendation in any publication will make a facility or operation safe or healthful, or put it in compliance with any standard, code, law, rule or regulation. Save where expressly agreed in writing, AXA XL Risk Consulting and its related and affiliated companies disclaim all liability for loss or damage suffered by any party arising out of or in connection with this publication, including indirect or consequential loss or damage, howsoever arising. Any party who chooses to rely in any way on the contents of this document does so at their own risk.

US- and Canada-Issued Insurance Policies

In the US, the AXA XL insurance companies are: AXA Insurance Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Specialty Insurance Company and T.H.E. Insurance Company. In Canada, coverages are underwritten by XL Specialty Insurance Company - Canadian Branch and AXA Insurance Company - Canadian branch. Coverages may also be underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003. Coverages underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003 are placed on behalf of the member of Syndicate #2003 by Catlin Canada Inc. Lloyd’s ratings are independent of AXA XL.
US domiciled insurance policies can be written by the following AXA XL surplus lines insurers: XL Catlin Insurance Company UK Limited, Syndicates managed by Catlin Underwriting Agencies Limited and Indian Harbor Insurance Company. Enquires from US residents should be directed to a local insurance agent or broker permitted to write business in the relevant state.