It’s not just vacuum wielders who are threats. Many pieces have been injured at the hands of caterers, carpenters, dog sitters and air-conditioning technicians. But the bulk of damage, according to the major art insurers, happens during the shipping and installation processes. “Too often, people are cheap when it comes to shipping and installing, and they end up with ruined art,” says Feuer, who once sold a photograph to an inexperienced buyer who opened the packaging himself with a knife and ended up slicing into the image. “And I had someone else who spent between $12,000 and $15,000 on another photograph but didn’t want to pay $80 for delivery and $80 for hanging. He hung it himself and sure enough, a few hours later it fell off the wall and was totally wrecked.”
Worth recently helped a client buy a photograph that was mounted on a light box. An electrician who was hired to connect a wall switch to the outlet that the piece was plugged into thought it would be better to cut the wire coming out of the piece and try to incorporate it into the house’s existing wiring. “I had to bring it back to the artist and get the light box entirely re-engineered,” Worth explains.
As Chubb’s worldwide fine art manager, Dorit Straus regularly handles the claims of art collectors seeking compensation for damaged pieces. “We had a client who bought something at a major auction house, which then put it onto a truck for delivery without packing it in anything,” Straus says. “The mover lost his balance and stuck his hand through the painting.” She also had a client hire a mover who wore a large, protruding belt buckle that “got hooked” into the client’s newly acquired painting. “We have packers and shippers who we’ve vetted and we know can handle this type of thing,” she says. “But people take shortcuts.”