Christie’s record breaking sale of Picasso’s Femmes d’Algers for $179m last month raises an interesting question for collectors: should they rush to get their Picassos revalued in the light of this stellar sale, and is existing insurance adequate to cover these paintings should loss or damage occur?
“You have to put the sale of this picture into context: it’s by an artist who painted a lot, and the picture itself is one of a series – there are other versions,” says AXA ART CEO Nick Brett. “There may not be other versions as good in private circulation but nonetheless it does beg the question: if that picture has fetched that price, what are some other Picassos then worth?”
Brett believes this type of question is becoming increasingly common as the art market remains bullish and prices continue to rise.
“We’re now in a situation where single items with a value in excess of $100m are by no means uncommon, whereas 10 years ago I can only remember insuring one picture for more than $100m. That is the big change,” he says. “It begs the question: how many insurers have got pockets deep enough to cover a single picture for $179m ?
“That’s where the role of the specialist insurer comes in: our business is centred on insuring art so we are acutely aware of these issues.”
Brett would certainly recommend that collectors get their collections – or at least the key items in their collections – valued regularly.
“In times of rapid movement like this, we would recommend that the interval between valuations is reduced.”
However, he adds that it’s worth taking any valuation with a pinch of salt and remembering that no matter how promising that valuation, it is never a solid guarantee that your Picasso would perform in a similar way to Women of Algiers if it went on sale tomorrow.
“The thing about art that makes it so challenging to insure is that its value is entirely subjective and is only ever tested when you try to sell the object. Ultimately, a good Picasso is worth however much you can get for it.”