The Art Police

Detective Don Hrycyk , LAPD Art Theft Detail, shows a fake Jim Dine painting, left, and a fake Renoir painting “La Loge (also called Au Theatre)

If you believe Hollywood’s version, the average art thief has many gadgets, scales walls, and dances through laser beam alarm triggers to steal Rembrandts and Renoirs. But when Detective Don Hrycyk of the LAPD Art Theft Detail solves an art crime, the guilty party is usually a trusted friend or business associate of the victim, not Tom Cruise in a catsuit.

The problem isn’t always smart criminals, Many leave themselves vulnerable to opportunists, with state of the art alarm systems that are never turned on, treasures locked away in safes with the combination left in an unlocked drawer nearby. Detective Hrycyk has seen it all.

The Art Theft Detail was formed by the LAPD in 1983 in response to a rash of unsolved High-value art thefts. It was a smart decision as they have recovered $122,999,616 in artwork since 1993. It is the only law enforcement unit in the country dedicated to fighting art crimes full-time.

They investigate by publicizing thefts and staying in constant contact with local galleries, museums, auction houses, and collectors. They tackle everything from phony estate sales stocked with fake antiques to consignment fraud, home burglaries, art-related insurance scams, and occasionally dramatic heists.

Picasso’s 1937 drawing “Faune”, for example, was recovered back in 2001 after a man tried to sell his $100,000 “ugly painting” to Christie’s in Beverly Hills. An alert appraiser checked the LAPD website, saw the stolen work and called the police. Turns out the thief was a chauffeur who had broken into the house of his movie-producer boss.

Sometimes it isn’t a very happy ending though, sculptor Kewal Soni had a break in and lost a $10,000 sculpture that he worked on for a year. The burglar then took it to a metal recycling plant and sold it as scrap for a measly $9.10. Although later the thief was caught and convicted.

The importance of insuring your art cannot be overstated. Art is a passion for most and when you love something it’s natural to want to protect it. Allow us to help by providing easy to understand comprehensive insurance coverage for your artwork.

Already covered? Let us examine your current Artist’s, Collector’s, Dealer’s, Conservator’s, Gallery’s, or Museum’s policy. Maybe you’re overpaying, under protected or have the wrong coverages.

Our policies have diverse coverages to meet the specific requirements of the Art Community. We help clients select adequate coverage and to help mitigate potential exposures, we provide recommended loss control procedures.

 

 

 

 

 

The Butler Did It (a classic art-theft)

At the sprawling Bel-Air estate of oil tycoon Howard Keck, his wife Elizabeth often played cards in a side room decorated with fine art. One of the artworks hanging on the wall of this room was a painting by Swedish impressionist artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920) entitled I Fria Luften. For almost three months, Elizabeth felt a vague subliminal uneasiness about the painting that she just couldn’t put her finger on. Finally, she did put her finger on it – on the canvas itself, and suddenly realized she was touching a photograph rather than the oil painting that was supposed to be in the elaborate gilt frame.

The theft was an obvious inside job by a person who had regular access to the painting. Someone took a high-quality photo of the painting and then had a custom lab blow up the image so that it would exactly fit the existing space for the stretcher and frame.

Detectives learned that three months earlier, the family butler had unexpectedly quit his job with the Kecks. Rune “Roy” Gunnar Donell, 61-years old, who had been a faithful employee at the estate for 11 years, announced that he was leaving because he needed surgery. He and his wife Christina, who was a cook at the estate, left at the same time. Elizabeth offered to pay for Roy’s surgery if he and Christina would stay, but they refused. Elizabeth remembered that Roy, who was a Swedish national, often admired the Zorn painting and commented that it would bring a high price in Sweden.

With the assistance of Interpol and the Swedish police, detectives attempted to trace Roy’s activities during his frequent flights back home. Detectives learned that almost a year ago, Roy Donell had appeared at a Swedish auction house called Beijars Auktioner, Scandinavian Art and Antiques AB. Roy auctioned off a painting entitled Fete Gallante by French artist Sebastien Jacques Le Clerc. Elizabeth Keck was contacted and verified that she owned the Le Clerc painting which was given to her as a gift. After talking to detectives, she searched for it and discovered it was also missing.

Swedish authorities learned that after collecting his money for the painting, Roy showed the auctioneers a photograph of a painting entitled Kvinna Klaer Sitt Barn (Woman Dressing Her Child). Detectives learned this was another title for Zorn’s I Fria Luften oil painting. Roy told the auctioneers that if they were interested in purchasing it, he could come back with the painting. Six months later, Roy arrived in Sweden accompanied by a woman of Latin appearance. Roy was met at the airport by the directors of the Swedish Auctioneers Office. He had the Zorn painting with him and consigned it for sale through the same auction house. Based on the date that Roy arrived in Sweden with the painting, detectives calculated that the bogus photo reproduction of the painting had been hanging in the Keck residence for five months before the theft was discovered.

The painting sold at auction for $527,000. The money went to Roy Donell.

Detectives arrested Roy before he could flee the area. He was held on $500,000 bail. During a search of his West L.A. apartment, detectives found evidence of money transfers from the sale of art belonging to the Kecks. Cameras and negatives depicting paintings were found along with a paper identifying Roy as a freelance photographer. There was also a receipt from a storage yard in Redondo Beach. When detectives called the manager at the storage yard, they learned that Roy stored a 25-foot motor home at the location. Roy tried to convince the detectives that he sold the motor home.

When detectives served a search warrant on the motor home and shimmied through a side window, they found two additional blowup photos of the Zorn painting, similar to the one found in the frame. Detectives were surprised to find another blowup photo, the exact size of a painting hanging in the Keck residence. The painting was entitled Ducks on the Banks of a River by German artist Alexander Koester (1864-1932). Detectives quickly contacted Elizabeth Keck to make sure the original painting was still hanging on the wall. Luckily, it was. It appears that Roy, emboldened by the success of his two earlier “acquisitions,” was planning to remove still another painting from the Keck residence, replacing it with a photograph.

Roy Donell was prosecuted for two counts of grand theft. As the start of the trial approached, prosecutors had no idea what defense Roy could possibly wage to counter the avalanche of evidence against him. However, the District Attorney’s Office soon learned that Roy was going to use a novel tactic. The Kecks were embroiled in protracted divorce proceedings at the time of the theft. During the monthlong trial, Roy admitted selling the two paintings in Sweden but claimed he was acting as an agent for Elizabeth Keck to sell assets without Howard Keck’s knowledge. Roy claimed he gave most of the money to Elizabeth, keeping $90,000 as his commission.

Elizabeth declared Roy’s assertions as “ludicrous” that she would conspire with her butler to sell the paintings and then report her discovery of the stolen paintings to the police. But enough doubt had been placed in the minds of the jury for them to acquit Roy of the charges. Some jury members later stated that the prosecution had simply not proven the case against Roy “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the stringent burden of proof in criminal cases.

The Swedish government refused to return the paintings, claiming that according to Swedish law, the auction buyers had purchased the paintings in good faith.

We represent Insurance Companies to make it easy for you to protect the things you collect.

Homeowner’s insurance alone does not provide enough coverage for your treasured items. That’s why our collector’s policy is the perfect complement to your standard personal lines products. It enables you to protect the full value of your collections in the event of a total loss.

 

A Jackson Pollock gets public view restoration

Jackson Pollock’s painting Number 1, 1949, is a swirl of multi-colored paint, dripped, flung and slung across a 5-by-8-foot canvas. It’s a textured work — including nails and a trapped bee  — and in the nearly 70 years since its creation, it’s attracted a fair bit of dust, dirt and grime.

That’s where conservator Chris Stavroudis comes in: His job is to clean the painting using swabs, solvents, and tiny brushes. For the last several months, he’s been hard at work, once a week, in full view of the public, in a gallery at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Some high school students watched Stavroudis wield his swabs — they have to make their own Pollocks for school, and want to know how he painted.

“The canvas was put on the floor and dribbled on,” Stavroudis explains. “He used sticks and dipped them into house paint, enamel paint, and then dribbled the paint off the stick and onto the canvas.”

There are many different reasons for conservation and although many conservators work on behalf of insurance companies to repair accidental damages it doesn’t mean they don’t also insure the works while in their possession.

ArtInsuranceNow.com has designed coverages to meet the specific needs of conservators. We help clients select adequate coverage for items in their care, custody, and control for restoration or conservation.

We cover items while:
In transit, on premises, at a work site, scheduled, and unnamed locations. Insuring an art practice is more than just protecting premises and stock against damage or theft. We provide seamless and flexible coverage for business exposures, as well. Even our most basic coverage provides solid protection.

For comprehensive Fine-Art Insurance Coverage call us at 800.921.1008 and visit ArtInsuranceNow.com

Art vandal slashes $3 million painting, is vandalism covered?

A British man has been accused of slashing a multi-million dollar painting in an art gallery in Aspen, Colorado, last year.

Surveillance footage shows a bearded man in a hat and sunglasses saunter into the Opera Gallery, lay down a plank to block the doors from shutting fully, head straight toward the painting, then slash its bottom-right corner twice.

In May, Aspen Police identified Nicholas Morley, a 40-year-old British businessman, as the perpetrator. He has been charged with felony criminal mischief and a Colorado judge has issued a warrant for his arrest.

Morley flew from London to Denver with a false name a day before the slashing, rented a car from the airport, and flew back to London two days after committing the crime, The Aspen Times reported, citing court documents.

As It turns out, Morley’s father, Harold, owned the $3 million painting through a holding company in Barbados that traded art.

In a situation like this what is covered? what is not? Fine Art’s risk exposure while on display is something that all artists, gallerists, and collectors should consider and insure accordingly.

 

William Fleischer, CIC and Principal of Bernard Fleischer & Sons Inc. explains further: “Most Art Insurance policies will cover Vandalism, but, how the values are determined is what I’d like to focus on here. If you are an Art Dealer, Art Collector or an Artist, the consignment agreement drives the answer to this question.”

  1. Almost all Art Dealer Policies value the art based on the agreed net consignment amount to be paid if sold +10% for the dealer’s commission. The check is made to the dealer.
  2. If you are a collector and have your own Insurance policy, then the valve would be either what is scheduled on your policy or the Market Value at the time of loss either way you would receive a higher payout than the dealer’s policy would pay out.
  3. If you are an Artist, and purchase our special artist’s policy, your Art is valued, better than a dealer’s policy, not at net consignment amount, but Market value minus 30%

When displaying art in public spaces, know your exposures and insure for them accordingly. A knowledgeable art insurance broker like Bernard Fleischer & Sons Inc. / ArtInsuranceNow.com can guide you to peace of mind and help protect the things you are passionate about.

Call us at 800.921.1008 or visit ArtInsuranceNow.com for a free quote to protect your artworks.

Caught on camera! Banksy print stolen

Watch the theft take place!

 

How secure is your artwork on loan? Is it really “insured”?

Police are investigating the theft of a Banksy print from an exhibit curated by the artist’s former manager. The Art of Banksy exhibit – curated by his former manager Steve Lazarides, but reportedly not endorsed by the artist – opened in a Toronto industrial building dressed up as an art gallery, as part of a larger North American run.

Every dealer’s insurance policy is unique, all have exclusion, conditions and limits.  some have handling warranties, alarm warranties, unpacking warranties, storage warranties.  Many have very high deductibles, and no transit coverage.  Most have exclusions for water damage, vandalism, mold, fire and theft. My advice to the collector is DO NOT Trust the gallery’s or anybody’s insurance coverage.

Buy your own policy, know your coverages and know that if anything does happen, the decision how to handle the loss is with you and most importantly, the check is made directly to you!

When loaning art for display, be sure to have the proper coverage. ArtInsuranceNow.com policies are tailored to cover works of art while on or off premises, in transit, storage, in exhibition, in a museum, auction house, and worldwide.

Call us at 800.921.1008 and visit ArtInsuranceNow.com to learn more and get a free quote by clicking below.

 

Chelsea Art Galleries catch fire

A Chelsea, NY building that’s home to several art galleries caught fire while the spaces were open for business, FDNY officials said. The one-alarm blaze broke out inside the Paula Cooper Gallery on the top floor of the two-story building that houses several other Art Galleries including the Tina Kim and Tanya Bonakdar Galleries. Following the inferno, people could be seen moving out wet boxes from the building and other items like chairs wrapped in plastic.

People rarely expect worst-case scenarios but as insurance professionals we have seen it happen too many times, the question we’d like to ask is “are you covered?”  Art Galleries give artists the space they need to exhibit their craft, gain exposure and sell art. And we provide value in knowing if something goes awry, the work is Insured.

Due to the nature of Art in a gallery, Gallery insurance is essential. Risk exposures such as unexpected events like fire, flood, earthquakes, and storms, can cause extreme damage to the building and its contents. Manage these risks by obtaining a gallerist insurance policy offered by ArtInsuranceNow.com / Bernard Fleischer & Sons Inc.

Call us at 800.921.1008 or visit ArtInsuranceNow.com by clicking the link below.

 

5-Year-old destroys $132,000 Art Sculpture

5-year-old Kansas boy knocks over $132,000 art sculpture on display at a local community center. Surveillance video captured the little boy reaching for the sculpture, called “Aphrodite di Kansas City” on display in the lobby of the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas when it toppled over.

“It was a piece that was loaned to us that we are responsible for. That’s public money,” Sean Reilly, a spokesperson for the City of Overland Park said. “We are responsible to protect the public investment.”

“The public investment” could have easily been protected with a policy from ArtInsuranceNow.com / Bernard Fleischer & Sons Inc. Our customized insurance policies are geared toward your typical Art Galleries, Museums, Exhibition space, and Dealer businesses.  We combine General Liability and Public Liability (Bodily Injury and Property Damage) into one straightforward policy.

Don’t wait until a loss occurs to learn more. Call us at 800.921.1008 or visit us at ArtInsuranceNow.com

When Fine-Art Meets Comic-Art

The influence of Comic-Art

It’s a trend that’s reflective of our times, with the record-setting box office of Avengers: Infinity War at a total of $1,813,732,959 in only 4 weeks! Comics as an art form is hugely popular, and we want to help protect those collections.

Most people debate whether to go with a painting or a photograph when filling an empty wall space. But lately, people are turning to something that reflects their pop culture interests, opting for art that depicts superheroes both well-known and obscure.

The appeal of these characters has gone mainstream in a big way, ensuring that vintage comic collections will continue to increase in value. With this increased popularity, there has also been more interest in collecting original comic book art. A popular cover of “Amazing Spider-Man” #328 pitting the title character against the Hulk by Todd McFarlane fetched $657,250 at auction in 2012, and a Sotheby’s Comic Art auction fetched $4.1 Million in 2015.

With the increasing values of this American Art Form comes the increasing exposure to theft and loss due to fire, floods, and damaging weather. We at Bernard Fleischer & Sons Inc. / ArtInsuranceNow.com provide Fine Art & Collectibles Insurance to give peace of mind to the avid collector and with over 60 years of experience under our belt, we can Insure your collection properly to fit your particular situation.

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$60,000 Jeff Koons’ Sculpture Destroyed at Amsterdam Exhibit

One of Jeff Koons’ reflective “Gazing Balls” was shattered into pieces, after a curious visitor touched it in an Amsterdam church. The glass work was on display in an exhibition at Nieuwe Kerk (a 15th Century church known for its high-profile art exhibitions) when it was destroyed on the last day of the show.

In the “Gazing Ball” series the artist has taken 35 masterpieces, including Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa and Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait Wearing a Hat and had them repainted in oil on canvas, and added a little shelf, painted as if it had sprouted directly from the image and placed a blue glass orb upon them, as a follow-up to his 2013 series that balanced gazing balls on plaster sculptures.

The gazing ball was the centerpiece of the exhibition. A spokesperson for Nieuwe Kerk confirmed that a visitor had touched the glass ball, which immediately broke, leaving behind shards. The painting itself remains undamaged, and no one was injured.

Many risks are exposed to Fine Art during an exhibition, including those during the transportation of said Artwork. For the one-off or traveling exhibitions, we provide wall-to-wall coverage for items on display and in transit, this way your lenders can have the peace of mind that they are insured. Coverage can include:

Packing crates, catalogues & brochures, Items covered in transit, art in storage between transits, worldwide private & public venues, and touring shows. Coverage for items worth $50,000 up to $100,000,000

Nothing less than a comprehensive Fine Art policy supplied by trusted insurance broker ArtInsuranceNow.com / Bernard Fleischer & Sons Inc. for your valued Artwork will do.

Visit us at https://www.artinsurancenow.com or call us at 800.921.1008

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Artwork in Transit; Managing the Risks

The top risks art collectors might face surprisingly doesn’t include theft. In fact, its art that’s on the move that poses the biggest risk. A large proportion of art claims are derived from transit losses. Private collectors enjoy lending, particularly as exhibitions in major institutions can increase value, that’s all very well until something goes wrong.

The movement of art is massive, now art is transported coast to coast, internationally or just to your winter home or local Gallery. When handling artwork, packing for transportation is a top concern for insurance carriers.

Many policies list as a condition, professional packing, meaning it must be packed as someone in the industry would pack it, safe, secure and protective from breaking if possible.

If you use a transportation service, either a fine art mover, a local mover, or common carrier, you must verify if they have or offer Insurance, what are their limits, conditions and the cost of the coverage. Insurance carriers differ and may have restrictions or limitations while your valuables are on the road, on a ship, or in air transit. The most common, efficient and safe way of moving art over long distances, domestically or internationally is by air transport, but it is very common to move the work yourself, so make sure your policy covers self-conveyance.

Some art transporting choices such as those offered by, United Parcel Service (UPS), DHL, Federal Express (FedEx), and other private art handling companies or commercial air freight carriers have limitations on coverages, territory, and deductibles. Keep in mind that while these are services used for fragile and non-fragile fine art, things happen within their control and outside of their control. Looking to your own insurance policy for protection is the right way to limit your financial losses and the quickest way to have the claim settled.

Artists, art dealers, and institutions use these Art transport services regularly, but Insurance, in particular, is the gray area in which most misunderstandings occur. Pay close attention to the bill of lading and understanding the fine print. The standard form limits the exposure of a claim on the art to weight, not value.

Our policies are written either as a schedule or market value less a percentage. Either way, your art will be protected while in transport. Caution, it’s important when securing transit art insurance to add extra days of transport for the unknown delays. Also note the declared value placed in customs forms or the bill of Lading is usually not used when settling a claim but look for wording which would specify to the contrary.

According to FedEx, “shipments (packages or freight) containing all or part of the following items are limited to a maximum declared value of $500: Artwork, including any work created or developed by the application of skill, taste or creative talent for sale, display or collection.

This includes, but is not limited to, items (and their parts) such as paintings, drawings, vases, tapestries, limited-edition prints, fine art, statuary, sculpture, collectors’ items, customized or personalized musical instruments, Film, photographic images, including photographic negatives, photographic chromes and photographic slides.

Any commodity that by its inherent nature is particularly susceptible to damage, or the market value of which is particularly variable or difficult to ascertain.”

According to UPS, articles of “unusual value” are prohibited from being offered for shipment. This definition explicitly includes “works of art.” As the November New York-based auctions ended and Art Basel Miami Beach began, for collectors buying and selling art no doubt demanded lots of their attention, they also should be thinking about keeping their art safe and properly insured as it moves between locations.

With the expansion of the global art market, risks increase. To discover a larger number of buyers, auction houses and art dealers often display art at multiple locations, including a growing number of art fairs around the world like Art Basel. The high volume of art exchanging hands increases the risk of improper handling and accidental damage and therefore increases the number of fine art insurance claims.

You should know where your art will be stored while in the possession of art dealers or auction houses. This is critical. For example, many consigned works were stored in art gallery basements in Chelsea during Hurricane Sandy, leaving many damaged. Art galleries may also store artwork at an off-site storage facility. Being notified before your piece is moved from one location to another is also a precaution and obtaining confirmation on how it will be packed and transported will help to ensure a smooth consignment process.

Don’t presume that the auction house, gallery owner, art dealer, or shipping company with possession of your artwork has insurance for its loss, theft or damage. It’s very important to have your own fine art policy. Collectors should always consult with an insurance agent. The agent can tailor a policy to a specific collector and discover any special provisions in the collector’s fine art policy.
No matter what risks they face, creating an insurance policy for an art collector requires one-on-one consultation since every art collection is unique, no two collectors are alike and no two collections are alike.

Collectors and their advisers would be wise to work with knowledgeable insurance brokers like Bernard Fleischer & Sons Inc.  that can guide you in obtaining the right fine art insurance for your unique requirements. For more info visit www.artinsurancenow.com and live chat with us or call us at 800.921.1008

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