Fourfold increase in value of indemnified art borrowed—and nearly all of it returned safely
By Martin Bailey. Museums, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 08 January 2013
Museums and galleries in
borrowed art indemnified by
the government worth a record £8.6bn last year—a fourfold increase over the
past 15 years. Without this support, most venues would find it difficult to
mount exhibitions with extremely high value loans; if the galleries that
benefited from indemnity had taken out commercial insurance, it would have cost
a total of more than £20m. England
The increase mainly reflects the rise in prices on the art market, particularly for major works. However, the number of venues has also increased, largely due to new National Lottery-funded buildings, such as Tate Modern. Works lent to national museums accounted for 75% of the £8.6bn; loans to other venues made up the rest.
We have obtained the first detailed data on the
UK’s Government Indemnity Scheme, which is
administered by the Arts Council in England
and by the respective governments of Scotland,
Wales and .
The scheme covers art loaned from the Northern Ireland and abroad, for both temporary
exhibitions and long-term loans. (Loans from national museums to other UK museums are not covered, since the rationale is that
the works belong to the nation and it would be inappropriate to use taxpayers’
money to indemnify them.) Indemnity covers conservation (in the event of
damage) and replacement value (in the event of loss, through theft or fire). UK
Among the exhibitions in the past financial year that pushed up the figure was the National Gallery’s “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” (9 November 2011-5 February 2012).
Although only eight paintings by Leonardo were borrowed (plus works by other artists), the works were all extremely valuable.