Government insurance helps art exhibitions to secure international loans

Recent exhibitions in museums across Flanders have been using a compensation strategy the Flemish government set up in 2021 to reduce the costs of international loans, De Standaard reports on Monday.

The "indemnity scheme" means museums no longer have to bear the full insurance price to cover loans. The government pays a significant percentage, allowing museums to use funds on communication, education and broadening access to large exhibitions instead.

Over the past few weeks, major exhibitions such as Anna Boch at Ostend's Mu.ZEE, Krasse Koppen at the Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA) in Antwerp and Dieric Bouts at Leueven's Museum M have drawn massive numbers of visitors. Mu.ZEEreceived more than 93,000 people for its exhibition. The draw has proven to be pieces loaned from other museums internationally.

For Krasse Koppen, the KMSKA has secured a Vermeer from Washington, a Rubens from Los Angeles, a Dürer from Madrid, a Quinten Massijs from London and an Adriaen Brouwer from Frankfurt. Similarly, Museum M has borrowed Bouts' The Last Supper from Sint-Pieterskerk in Leuven and other pieces from Frankfurt, Berlin, San Francisco, Paris and London.

Delphiniums and Chrysanthemums by Anna Boch © BRIDGEMAN
Delphiniums and Chrysanthemums by Anna Boch © BRIDGEMAN

A report from the EU listed the largest exhibitions in seven countries, showing that museums had paid 50 million euros in unnecessary insurance costs in five years. However, there were only 55 claims in those five years, with an average damage of around 27,500 euros.

The concept was first brought before Joke Schauvliege (CD&V) and Sven Gatz (Open VLD) during their terms as minister of Culture. The current Culture minister, Jan Jambon (N-VA), then implemented the scheme. Large exhibitions with loans worth 50 million euros are eligible, but the owner must approve each loan and whether they accept the indemnity agreement.

"We had 107 works that fell under the scheme," said Dominique Savelkoul, director of Muzee. "Most of the museums that granted us loans agreed."

At Museum M, 22 loans are covered by the scheme. "Our experience is that the system is well accepted," said director Peter Bary. "Things went very smoothly in countries such as France, Spain and Italy. In Germany and Austria, things were sometimes a little more difficult. All museums should realise that a government guarantee is the most powerful way to guarantee the safety of a work of art."

The Last Supper by Dieric Bouts © DOMINIQUE PROVOST
The Last Supper by Dieric Bouts © DOMINIQUE PROVOST

Anna Boch at Mu.ZEE was the first exhibition to fall under the indemnity scheme in Flanders.

"We learned a lot from it," says Savelkoul. "The rules were perhaps a bit rigid. For example, the list of loans had to be determined two months before the opening. During that period, works were added and lost. Or they were not brought in at the correct insurance value. This makes it difficult to say exactly how much we have saved. But without this arrangement, we would probably have been less ambitious with our loans."

The money the government covers frees the museums to use funds for more creative ventures surrounding each exhibition.

The 62 applicable loans at the Krasse Koppen exhibition have an insured value of 454 million euros. "If we had had to insure the entire amount ourselves, it would have cost us 278,000 euros," says Willems. "We now pay 52,500 euros for the remaining amount. That's a saving of 81 per cent. The indemnity scheme helps us to show absolute masterpieces. We used the money saved for storytelling, scenography, audience mediation and marketing."


#FlandersNewsService | Krasse Koppen Exhibition at KMSKA © BELGA PHOTO TIJS VANDERSTAPPEN

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