Friday 21 February 2014

From rubbish to art, then back to rubbish: an insurance issue

The recent BBC report, "Cleaner throws out 'rubbish' Sala Murat artwork", here, highlights a number of issues of concern to the art community. In relevant part, the article states:
Not the work in question -- but the place
where you might have to look for it
"A cleaner has mistakenly thrown away contemporary artworks meant to be part of an exhibition in southern Italy. Works made out of newspaper and cardboard, and cookie pieces scattered across the floor as part of Sala Murat's display were thrown out. Lorenzo Roca, from cleaning firm Chiarissima, said the unnamed cleaner was "just doing her job". He added his firm's insurance would cover the value of the art, estimated to be around 10,000 euros (£8,200).

According to local press, security noticed a number of items were missing when the venue, in the province of Bari, opened on Wednesday morning. It later emerged the cleaner had handed them over to refuse collectors, thinking it was rubbish left behind by workers who set up the Mediating Landscape exhibition. ...
"It's clear the cleaning person did not realise she had thrown away two works and their value. But this is all about the artists who have been able to better interpret the meaning of contemporary art, which is to interact with the environment. In any case, the insurance will cover the damages caused."
This blogger wonders whether the insurance company will indeed pay up, rather than maintain that the insured owes a duty of care to ascertain that material found in an art gallery is indeed rubbish before throwing it away. He also wonders whether the insurance company will be happy to accept the estimated valuation, given the nature of the work and the relatively low cost of replacing it.  Finally, might there not be a question of which insurer should bear the risk -- that of the gallery, of the owner of the work or of the cleaning firm -- and of how to resolve any problems arising from the possibility that three separate insurance companies have accepted the risk?

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