As an art collector, you’ve likely built up a collection because you love the work and truly enjoy living with it in your home. Your artwork probably takes center stage above every other item in your home; it’s not uncommon for you to make interior design selections based on that stunning new piece you’ve just added to your collection. If this description sounds a lot like you, then you’re probably hesitant to take pieces out of your house and loan them from your collection to museum exhibitions. However, loaning notable pieces from your collection for prominent museum exhibitions or historical surveys is an excellent strategy for increasing the overall significance and value of your collection on the secondary art market.
As we mentioned in our previous post outlining key signals that it might be time to sell your artwork, market value is often tied to an artist’s perceived prominence within the art world. When an auction specialist is considering whether to consign a work for sale on the secondary art market, the three most important factors are the work’s provenance, exhibition history, and literature surrounding the work. Loaning your works for notable museum shows strengthens each of these key factors - by loaning your pieces to public institutions, you’re essentially taking this matter into your own hands.
Consider the process: When a piece is sourced for an exhibition, it will likely be featured prominently in an exhibition catalogue, where the museum’s curator will likely discuss its significance at length. The exhibition will probably receive a great deal of press, which provides more opportunities for the work to be featured. Thousands - maybe even millions - of people will interact with the work, raising the artist’s profile among the masses. And because there is a great deal of documentation involved in the execution of an exhibition, your work will have a number of important provenance-enhancing documents associated with its inclusion.
By loaning the work for the exhibition, you’ve established academic credibility for the piece, enhanced its provenance with important documentation, and increased critical scholarship and dialogue around the work. On the secondary art market, this piece would be highly desirable to any savvy collector, as its unlikely that the work’s importance or provenance would come into question considering its exhibition history.
Here, we outline key steps for loaning your prized artworks for exhibitions, along with insight into what to expect from the process.
Identifying Opportunities to Loan Your Artwork
A savvy collector focused on maximizing their investment will keep close relationships with curators and other museum professionals who might be interested in obtaining the work for a museum show.
While not every piece in your collection may warrant a museum show, it’s always good practice to keep a working relationship with museum professionals. Inviting them to tour your collection, inquiring into upcoming museum shows, and maintaining open lines of communication about your collection’s evolution is a great way to ensure that your collection remains top of mind for important exhibitions.
In addition, once you’ve established a relationship with a curator, it’s quite likely that they’ll continue to consider your artwork for future exhibitions. And the more your piece is included in more exhibitions, the more you cement the work’s importance. Take, for example, a recent exhibition loan we handled for a prestigious client. Gioia Mori, the curator of “Tamara de Lempicka: Queen of Art Deco” at the Gaviria Palace in Madrid, explained that she had long set her sights on our client’s work. In 1994, our client had loaned the work to an exhibition in Rome. “I saw the work back then in Italy, and I had been searching for the painting, wanting to get in touch with the collector ever since,” says Mori. “I was so thrilled to be able to present this work in this year’s exhibition.” What’s more, Mori pointed out that nearly half of the works included in a 2006 show on de Lempicka were also included in this exhibition.
By loaning their work to a prior exhibition, our collector client exposed the work to an important international curator which created an opportunity for increased scholarship and visibility for the piece. Included here in a retrospective for the artist, the piece is that much more likely to be an important work within her oeuvre, and therefore considered valuable on the secondary art market. It’s truly illustrative as to why its so essential to loan pieces for exhibitions in an effort to increase future resale value.
Secure Insurance and Loan Agreements
It’s natural to feel somewhat uneasy about loaning your piece for an exhibition - particularly if the exhibition will take place in a location far from home. Before making it official, you’ll want to make sure you’ve secured insurance and a loan agreement for the piece. This will provide you with peace of mind while ensuring that each party understands their responsibilities.
In the instance in which you’re loaning your work for an exhibition, the museum or institution you’re working with should be prepared to provide a specific insurance plan that secures the work from any potential harm. These policies are known as ‘wall-to-wall’ coverage, and insures your work from the moment it’s removed from your home and transferred to its temporary location until its returned safely and soundly. In order to properly insure the piece, do be sure to have an appraisal and condition report completed and executed before you loan the work - this will make sure that, in the event of a mishap, your work is covered in its entire monetary value.
Similarly, you’ll want to make sure that your loan agreement includes a detailed appraisal and condition report, along with outlining the rules governing the loan and each parties’ responsibilities under the contract. Usually, a museum will have these documents on file, and you’ll merely be required to review the contract and ensure the work’s condition and value has been accurately reported, and sufficient insurance has been secured. Here, you’ll want to outline the dates you agree to loan out the work, the location, the title, year, and medium, and the specific exhibit. If you have display requirements, make sure you include those as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or have your art advisor or attorney review the contract for any inaccuracies.
We’ve experienced firsthand the value of loaning our client’s artwork out for museum exhibitions, and couldn’t be happier to work with our clients in exploring possible opportunities to display their work before an art-loving public. Get in touch if you’re considering whether a museum show might make sense for some of your most coveted works.
Keep Documentation to Enhance Artwork Value
When an artwork is entered into an exhibition, it usually undergoes a rigorous screening process to ensure that the work is authentic. Museum professionals will generally perform additional research surrounding the piece, so that there is a substantial amount of context as to why the work was included in the exhibition in the show’s catalogue. The institution borrowing the piece will likely also adhere certain labels to the work to document and record its inclusion in the exhibition.
Each one of these processes will be critical in future dealings with auction houses, who often consider the provenance of an artwork one of the single most important factors in whether it will sell well at auction. Detailed documentation, critical review and scrutiny, and inclusion in exhibition catalogues add substantial surety around the work’s authenticity and importance.
Though it might not seem ideal to have a label affixed to the back of your artwork, it’s actually an extremely useful piece of documentation if you plan on re-selling this work in the future. So, if you loan your work for an exhibition, be sure you leave the labels on the back of the piece! Similarly, pushing for your piece to be included in the show’s exhibition catalogue - including an image of the work, and a curatorial manifesto as to its significance and importance within the art canon - is highly recommended in an effort to secure the work’s academic credibility. Likewise, if you’ve loaned a piece for an exhibition, be sure to keep important documents - such as the contract, catalogue, or important emails - so that you can keep records for a later potential sale.
Ultimately, loaning your artwork to an exhibition will give the work far more value on the secondary art market because it contextualizes the work’s prominence within a certain period or movement, and establishes academic credibility around the work. A savvy art advisor will ensure that the work is featured in the exhibition catalogue, adding literary scholarship and additional importance to the work. If you’re interested in exploring opportunities to lend your work for an exhibition, get in touch!