Dear Mountmakers, I am doing a freelance project for a museum that is requiring insurance for my three day project ( I will be working at there storage warehouse and using my own equipment and tools). I am trying to find an insurance carrier that can offer this policy at a good rate. This is a small project and I will rarely need coverage like this because I tend to work for private collectors. Any advice will be much appreciated. Thanks,
Jamie Hascall 10/18/15
I have recently started back into private practice after many years as a museum employee. For my work with the Alaska State Museum, I was required to get a Commercial General Liability policy. I got it through Liberty Mutual and the cost was just under $300 per year. Although I was only required to have it for the one job, I think it is really important to have my overall practice covered. Now for the caveat; this is a general policy and not specifically tailored to the task of handling high value art. You may want to give your insurer specific examples of things you do and work with to make sure there will be coverage if something happens. It is a conversation that I have not yet had with my broker, but it is in the near future.
Good luck Jamie Hascall Seattle
I assume you only need a policy to cover you during the time you are working there, and I think you will have a hard time finding an insurance company that would cover you for this short a time. I would check with the museum to see if they can add a rider on their policy to cover you as additionally insured, some places will do that for you. Even if most of your work is for private clients, it's still a good idea to have a yearly policy for liability and workers comp in case you damage your clients objects or their house and in case you get hurt on the job, hopefully not! The downside is the expense, upwards of over $1000.00 a year depending upon your insurability, which you have to build into your jobs over the course of a year, but it's the cost of doing business in our field. Most of my work is with large instructions, Smithsonian, etc, and I am required to carry up to 2 million in liability insurance and workman's comp, never have had to use it, but that's why it's called insurance, it's peace of mind.
Hopefully other mount makers in the forum will have some suggestions and if you decide to go the route of a yearly policy, let me know, I have a good insurance broker that underwrites these types of policies for people in our field, I've had a number of my fellow mountain makers get their policies through them.
Jon Pressler On the Verge Design
Hi, Agreed. You probably won’t find an insurance company who will cover you for less than a year. I strongly suggest getting insurance and just adding the cost to your overhead. General Liability covers some, and is mostly what is asked for but (as I understand it) that won’t cover the artifact, for that you need Fine Arts insurance and make it clear to the insurer that you want it to cover you when you are on site with someones object. Professional Liability is good too, though I have the impression that it over laps a bit with the Fine Art and the GL. Before I was insured I was able to get an institution to write me into their insurance. That may be your best bet for this job, that way you have time to figure out insurance, and not have to jump into something quickly. Another time I asked an established art services company to take the job and subcontract to me, so I was covered by their insurance. I have an agent I can send you as well. Good luck Beth
Let me piggyback on Jamie's and Beth's comments. I have been going through the insurance wringer for about going on 10 years now and it's been a challenge. When you try and get a liability policy, the insurance company needs to put you in a category so they can compare what it is you do to similar types of work to figure out what your rate will be and there really isn't a category like "mount maker". I've been categorized as welder, jeweler, and even library furniture assembler/installer! If you have a yearly policy, you're going to have to undergo a yearly audit where they try and determine if anything has changed in the type of work you do, good and bad, your rates could go up or down depending on the type of information you supply and you have to be careful as to how you describe what it is you do. Or they could drop you entirely, it's happened to me. During one yearly audit, I had to supply pics of my studio showing the kinds of tools I use, I have been asked if I ever use a ladder to install artwork and how high am I when I do this, don't say anything above 3'! If you say that you weld or solder, you basically categorized as a welder, thus higher rate, working with flammable gases and materials! It's basically really messed up and yeah, ya basically have to lie about what it is you do, otherwise you can't get coverage or your rates are so high that it's unaffordable.
This is all to say that this has been my experience, maybe I've been going about it all wrong all these years, but the other mount makers that I have recommended the same type of coverage I have, have had similar experiences. Also note, that in my experience, if you have subcontractors, which I do on a regular basis, i.e, subcontract other mount makers to be part of your team, they have to have their own liability insurance, they will not be covered under your policy, and if they don't and something happens, you are going to be liable and your insurance will not cover it.
As far as what Jamie said, yes, you have to make sure it's not just a general liability policy as you might not be covered for handling high value art. FYI, Liberty Mutual was the company I had all these problems with, so be cautious. Granted I carry an extremely high liability policy due to my work with large institutions such as the Smithsonian and my comments may not apply to all situations, but this has been my experience and I hope it helps anyone else out there considering getting this kind of coverage. Best,
Jon Pressler On the Verge Design
Jamie Hascall 10/18/15
Amen Jonathan. In my previous business (Hascall Museum Services) before I went to Santa Fe to work at the state museums, I had a policy from Safeco that was put together by an agent who also insured Artech (Seattle's major art handling firm. My brother Mike was and is one of the principals.). As a result of being very familiar with the high-value art business, he put together a package that seemed to be adequate. Thankfully, I never had to find out. In my new business (back in Seattle), I am trying to limit my liability by never taking custody of a client's property. It's only been less than a year, but I am already questioning how I will insure in the future. I think a good model may be conservators in private practice. That said, contacting the insurer of a conservator that I work occasionally work with did not even produce a call back. Another firm classified me as a metal fabrication shop and would have totally missed the boat. The feeling of exposure is one of the reasons I left the business for museum employment in 2006. We'll see what happens... Good luck with your search. I'd recommend you have a conversation with the museum to be really clear on what the insurance is that they expect, and what your liability might be in a hypothetical situation. I doubt anyone actually has a really good answer for you. Good luck, Jamie
Suzi McG 10/29/15
Throwing in my $.02 here. I worked with my insurer USAA and they had a policy drawn up through the Hartford. They also ask for yearly audits but so far no questions about going up ladders. I was told that they were one of the few insurers who deal with fine arts handling and I did have to explain that what we do is similar to conservation. I don't usually store art/artifacts in my studio precisely because I don't want the liability of it on my property even though I have a very large gun safe. I'm not sure where the liability is when something is still on museum property and you are given consent to handle it. My policy is about $750 a year and so far I've only been asked to show proof of insurance twice. Still I'd rather have it than not. A friend of mine who is an exhibit designer said that he was looking for a policy recently and they were giving him quotes of almost $10K a year. Ouch. Let us know what you find out. Best, Suzi