European Fine Art Collector, Insurer Discusses His Trials, Tribulations at Art Basil, Miami Beach

November 30, 2005

The trials and tribulations of maintaining and insuring a well-known corporate art collection, from bombings by the IRA, to being stolen by builders and damaged when cleaners sprayed paintings with window cleaner, were described by Charles Dupplin, head of Hiscox PLC’s Fine Art and Private Client Division at the Nov. 30 Fine Arts Committee Fund breakfast, one of the many events in advance of the kicking off the week-long Art Basil, Miami Beach, Fla. Art Basil, one of America’s leading art shows.

Hiscox PLC is one of Europe’s leading fine-arts insurers. Dupplin told Insurance Journal each of the company’s European offices has on display entire collections of wonderful paintings and fine art representative of each region. After joining the company in 1990, Dupplin ran Hiscox’s network of Continental European offices from 1995 to 2000 and started its offshore insurance company in 1998.

“We know about fine art from the viewpoint of the consumer and as an insurer,” Dupplin explained. “Sometimes it’s the old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg.”

Dupplin gave the board room full of collectors and industry experts, a slide presentation showing some of the best paintings, sculptures and pieces of furniture in Hiscox’s collection. He described how Robert Hiscox became a world-renowned collector of fine art and became well-known as a member of the Tate Gallery in London and at the same time combed Europe for examples of its finest artworks.

“The issue here isn’t to buy art to make money,” Dupplin said. “Hiscox has bought and sold fine art and often thinks of it as a living thing, it illuminates our offices and when our employees get bored with it, we sell it and replace it with something even better.

“We can say from experience what collecting involves,” he continued. “Art is interesting, it attracts money and can make more money—but our main motivation is art for art’sake.”

Dupplin said that right now the Contemporary Art market is terribly hot. He said thousands of art dealers, collectors and aficionados are now in Miami Beach for the world’s most exciting Contemporary Art gathering.

In his presentation to the fine arts committee, Dupplin explained that first, Hiscox is enthusiastic and has no hesitations or reservations about buying fine art.

“Second, we only buy what we like, we have a common theme and try to maintain a very good eye in choosing fine art for our collection.”

Dupplin was accompanied at the event by Elliott McDonald, Hiscox’s expert curator, who has been with the company for more than three years.

“It’s important to be passionate about art, and to know something about it as well,” Dupplin said. “Everyone will make a few mistakes, but in our time our fine art collection has been through a number of threats and come through unscathed.”

Dupplin said fine art is sometimes hard to insure because it is improperly displayed, or even in some cases created on very delicate materials which are not meant to last a long time.

“We also know that certain types of art are transient,” he concluded, “but you buy them with full knowledge that they will degrade over time.

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