Insurance Feed

Should Artists Be Expected to Pay the Gallery's Deductible?

From a reader...

Dear Ask Harriete,

A gallery I show with is asking all their artists to sign new contracts.  Everything is standard (50-50 split, etc.) except for a new clause (shown below) which addresses the possibility of theft or damage. 

"(Gallery) will ensure the artwork for its wholesale price.  If a claim is filed, the insured work will be paid upon receiving the check from the insurance company less the deductible of $1,000."

Have you ever seen this in a gallery contract? Thanks for any thoughts you have.  I'd like to know if you have ever run across this.

Signed, Shocked Artist


Dear Shocked Artist,

In my 35+ years of experience as an exhibiting artist and working in the arts and crafts community, I have never seen a gallery contract that requires the artist to pay the gallery's insurance deductible in case of loss or damage. 

The simple impact of the clause is that the gallery is shifting a portion of their business expense onto the artists.  

I realize that operating a business -- for both the artist and the gallery -- involves expenses.  Insurance costs are increasing for everyone.  There is no argument there. We all understand this too well.

I applaud the gallery for ensuring the craft/artwork against the risks of loss or damage.  We can all understand that accidents do happen despite the best of efforts for care and security. Nevertheless, the gallery should be entirely responsible for the artwork while it is in their possession. The gallery negotiates their own insurance policy without any input from artists.  Yet if the artwork is outside of the artist's control, why should the artist be held responsible for any portion of loss or damage?

Insurance-DeductibleAn insurance "deductible" issue is a business decision between the gallery and the insurance company. A gallery can choose among several insurance options.  Usually the higher the deductible the lower their insurance premium. Homeowner policies and car insurance policies work much the same way for individuals. Most of us have some understanding that a higher deductible means that small claims are not filed and small losses are not absorbed by the insurance company. This reduces the insurance premium.

In contract negotiations, the old saying is "everything is negotiable."

I would reject this clause by striking through the "... less the deductible of $1,000" clause and explain your position. If they don't agree to remove the clause, I would not agree to consign my work under these circumstances.

The Professional Guidelines Consignment Contract says….
9. Insurance.  Insurance for the full wholesale price should be provided by the gallery.  The gallery is responsible for the deductible on their policy.  Artist's should have control over any repairs, as necessary. (Again, for more information see the Claims for Damaged Work: Artist Checklist.) “ 

Two hypothetical examples illustrate the problem if the gallery shifts responsibility to the artist to pay the deductible:

1) What if the price of an item is less than $2,000 retail /$1,000 wholesale? 
If the item is lost or damaged while at the gallery, the artist would receive nothing (zero $) when there is a $1,000 deductible.  The gallery could even decide not to file an insurance claim, i.e. abdicating any responsibility for the loss or damage. In this scenario, there is little or no incentive for the gallery to handle items with care or secure items to avoid loss or damage.

2) What if the gallery chose to have a $2,000 deductible? or a $5,000 deductible? Where would this stop? 
If the artists agree to pay the gallery's deductible, the gallery could keep raising their business deductible and further lower their premium expenses while the artists bear the increased risk of financial loss.  A perverse incentive arises for the gallery to exercise less care and less security since the artists bear more of the financial consequences.  

Conclusion:    Maybe someone at the gallery thought that asking the artist to pay the $1,000 deductible would be a trivial amount of money in a low probability event -- but thinking through this situation as objectively as possible, I believe that this would create a seriously problematic precedent.


This post was updated on December 11th, 2021.

CLAIMS for DAMAGED WORK: Artist Checklist

Consignment Contract from the Professional Guidelines

Insurance Deductible Deducted from Whom?

Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, Retail Price For EXHIBITION CONTRACTS

Should-Artists-pay-gallery-deductible copy

"Uncommon Couture" - How Do I Decide About Participation in an Exhibition?

Artists and makers frequently have to make decisions about participation in shows, exhibitions or competitions. Depending on your experience, time and finances the criteria will change and evolve.

AskHarrieteOreoIMG_7919_web 1000x

In the past, I've had work in an exhibition titled, "Uncommon Couture" that just opened at the Florida Craft Art Gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida. I've had other work in a separate show that opened Saturday, September 12, 2015, titled, Body as Agent: Changing Fashion Art at the Richmond Art Center, Richmond, California. 

Recently with the up-tic in the economy, I am much surprised by the number of invitations to participate in exhibitions.   With each opportunity the question arises, "How should I decide about participation?" -- sort of like "to be or not to be" in each one.


One of my hard and fast rules about participation (actually my #1 minimum requirement) is insurance at the venue.  After much experience (good and bad), I have chosen this requirement as a measure of whether the sponsor has their act together.   The issues surrounding insurance have been discussed at length in several previous posts.  

“We all hope that the insurance coverage isn't needed, but it is just this guarantee to the artist that raises professional exhibitions above the lower level venues and events.  Participating artists are assured that their work will be protected with superior handling AND will have a "back up plan" (i.e. insurance) in case of damage.”

Red Hots Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman in yellow and red recycled materials.

The need for insurance at a show can be a "red hot" topic leading to heated discussions on occasion. This really isn't about whether you have business insurance in your studio. [Yes, I have business insurance.]  This is about a minimum professional standard in an event that characterizes itself as something above the day-to-day mundane -- is this a real "show" or is it just a hangout.

Totally-To-Point-Fuchsia Flower Pin by Harriete Estel BermanIn previous posts, I have gone on record saying "no insurance, no show. "Competitions or exhibitions that do not provide insurance are for the hobbyist/amateur level such as the county fair, a display at the mall or at the local library, as just a few examples."  In these venues the artist/maker assumes all the risk.   Often, these artist/makers are just beginning to accumulate experience in showing or selling their work. 


I understand that insurance is an expense that is getting very expensive. But in my opinion, every exhibition or opportunity needs to consider insurance as a demarcation of professionalism and a minimum accommodation to attract the best work. Providing insurance is a reflection upon the exhibition sponsor's expectation for the quality of work to be shown. 

We need to stand together supporting professional standards. No insurance, no show.

If you are invited to participate in any situation where you are sending your work to a location outside of your control, then you have a reasonable expectation that the sponsor will provide insurance.

  • Read the contract.
  • Raise the issues with exhibition sponsors.
  • Learn how to establish appropriate insurance values (in a future post.)

All of the images above in this post have been exhibited at "Uncommon Couture" at Florida Art Craft Gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida. Exhibition dates: August 28-October 24, 2015

Location: Florida Art Craft Gallery
501 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Silicon Valley from the California Collection at the Richmond Art Center

Thanks to those who joined me on Saturday at the Richmond Art Center at the opening for Body as Agent: Changing Fashion Art  5 - 7 pm, free and open to the public. 
2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, California 94804
Open until November 15th, 2015


This post was update on December 10th, 2021.                                             

OREO Unlock the Magic Bracelet in Yellow, purple at Uncommon Couture.Oreo “Unlock the Magic”

Photo Credit:  Steven Brian Samuels 
previously at "Uncommon Couture"



Yellow Bracelet with orange dots, super thin.

Reverse side: “America Online” dark blue & white address label.
previously at "Uncommon Couture"


Red Hots Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman in yellow and red recycled materials.

Red Hot Flower Pin
Recycle post consumer tin cans & plastic.

previously at "Uncommon Couture"


Totally-To-Point-Fuchsia Flower Pin by Harriete Estel BermanTotally to the Point Flower Pin
Recycled post consumer tin cans & plastic.

previously at "Uncommon Couture"



Silicon Valley Jewelry from the California Collection by Harriete Estel Berman

Silicon Valley from the California Collection 
Three bracelets displayed in a custom made wooden fruit crate. Bracelets and fruit crate label constructed from recycled tin containers, 10k gold rivets, aluminum rivets.
Currently at Richmond Art Center "Body as Agent: Changing Fashion Art"

Additional work at  "Body as Agent: Changing Fashion Art" include: 
Santa Rosa Bracelets Bermaid Santa Rosa
Bermaid Santa Rosa Bracelets and fruit crate display

Recycled Fruit Crate and necklace from recycled materials

Recycle from the California Collection
Recycled Fruit Label from recycled tin cans BermanRecycledcollar72  Berman Recycled Bracelets from Recycle the California Collections

Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, Retail Price For EXHIBITION CONTRACTS

Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, and Retail Price for exhibitions are sometimes confused usually because of inexperience and good intentions, but with negative consequences and hard feelings if an insurance claim becomes necessary.

This is why a recommendation will be made here.

ALWAYS CLEARLY WRITE DOWN on the exhibition contract:

CONDITIONreportI also write this on the Professional Guidelines Condition Report when I send my work to an exhibition.

Defining each term on the contract by a dollar value avoids confusion.

Here is an example:
RETAIL PRICE:            $ 3,000
$ 1,500

NEVER use the term "ARTIST PRICE" on a contract or in a discussion. The term "Artist Price" has too many definitions to be a reliable term. Interpretations of an "artist's price" range from a special discounted price off wholesale to a special retail price.

ALWAYS LIST THE RETAIL PRICE even if the exhibition sponsor does not have a space for it on the loan form. Write in the Retail Price yourself, if necessary, between the lines or in the margin.

If art or craft is borrowed from a collector that paid retail, then there is no wholesale price and the insurance value is the retail price.
RETAIL PRICE:            $ 3,000

Keep this as clear and straightforward as you can.

Recently I was in an exhibition at an established museum. An inexperienced intern was in charge of the exhibition paperwork (a cost-cutting measure that had huge consequences). The loan form from the museum only had a place to write the "insurance value". The artists wrote in the insurance value as the wholesale price. That is correct, but the museum then sold the artwork at those wholesale values instead of the retail prices. What a mess!  

This confusion didn't happen with my work because I wrote down both the retail price and wholesale price, but I do know that at least one artist had her work sold at wholesale! The artist lost the potential of establishing a new "higher retail price" for her work and the museum expected to pay the artist half the wholesale price. Bad news! The museum fixed the mistake at their loss. What a shame! A huge opportunity cost for everyone involved.

Avoid confusion. Always list the retail price, wholesale price, and insurance value on your contract and  Condition Report.


Previous posts about Insurance Value, Wholesale Price & Retail Price:

In$urance Value, Whole$ale Price, Retail Price - Under$tand the Money defines the terms.

In$urance Value, Whole$ale Price, Retail Price for $HIPPING clarifies which value to use during shipping.

This post was updated on June 17, 2022, to provide current links.

In$urance Value, Whole$ale Price, Retail Price for $HIPPING

When shipping your art or craft, save money by understanding whether to use the wholesale price or retail price for shipping insurance. It doesn't matter how much shipping insurance you purchased for shipping -- your documentation for the value of the shipped item is the critical issue.

Here is an excerpt for the Q & A from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar. I describe the scenario briefly. (P.S. This is the first time for me to insert an audio file MP3 in a post. If it doesn't work for you let me know.)


When sending work to a store/gallery or exhibition sponsor, insure the art or craft at the wholesale price.
This is all you will receive if the work is sold. This is all the insurance company will pay you (the artist) if the work is lost or damaged during shipping. You must be able to prove that you have received this wholesale price for the same or similar work.

However, if the art or craft has already been sold at the retail price (and you have a receipt to prove it), then insure the art or craft for the retail price during shipping. The invoice for the purchase price will be adequate documentation for the insurance company that you expected to receive this amount.

Insuring for a higher or lower amount than the actual value may be considered fraud. So honesty is the best policy. Insure for the accurate value given each circumstance.

Sometimes when shipping art or craft, the insurance is provided by the exhibition sponsor. In this case, the insurance value is either A) the wholesale price if still owned by the artist, or B) the retail value if owned by a collector.  A collector can show a purchase receipt to prove value.  As an artist, a successful insurance claim depends on being able to prove that you have sold similar work for similar amounts to the insurance value. The insurance company will expect documentation such as:

  • invoices for purchase;
  • copies of past checks for similar or identical work; or
  • appraisals from qualified persons to establish value. 


Posts about Insurance Value, Wholesale Price & Retail Price:

In$urance Value, Whole$ale Price, Retail Price - Under$tand the Money defines the terms.

Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, Retail Price For EXHIBITION CONTRACTS 

The SNAG  Professional Development Seminar presented three hours of shipping information for artists and makers. We covered shipping jewelry from precious metals to large sculptures, making a custom-made shipping box to international shipping. And more!

There were nine presentations and handouts with information about shipping.  

Additional information about shipping, including a number of the SNAG Professional Development Seminar presentations, can be found on my website and ASK Harriete

Ask me which presentation is the best for your interest or media.

11 boxes in my living room ready to ship to Alaska.
2 boxes are ready to ship to Los Angeles, CA.
Last week was a busy week!

This post was updated on June 17, 2022, to provide current links.


<p>Previous posts about Insurance Value, Wholesale Price &amp; Retail Price:</p>
<h3><a title="Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, Retail Price For EXHIBITION CONTRACTS"
<h3><a title="Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, Retail Price - Understand the Money " href="" target="_blank">In$urance Value, Whole$ale Price, Retail Price - Under$tand the Money</a> defines the terms.</h3>
<h3><a title="Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, Retail Price for Shipping" href="" target="_blank">In$urance Value, Whole$ale Price, Retail Price for $HIPPING</a></h3>

In$urance Value, Whole$ale Price, Retail Price - Under$tand the Money

What's the difference between Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, and Retail Price? Confusion is common, but it is important to understand the differences before shipping your work to an exhibition or elsewhere.  The consequences can be substantial -- we are possibly talking tears, frustration, embarrassment and real money.

You would not believe the stories I have heard from others and experienced myself.

Today's post provides the definition of each term. The next two posts will discuss in more depth some examples of deciding shipping insurance and confusion at exhibitions. Misunderstandings will likely cost you money and potential embarrassment.

Here are the definitions:

The RETAIL PRICE is what the gallery/store/exhibition sponsor lists as the purchase price in the catalog or on the “price list.” (We are ignoring "discounts" off retail in this post.)

The WHOLESALE PRICE is what the artist actually expects to receive as payment. This is sometimes called the “artist price”, but I'd recommend never using the term "artist price" because it may imply different things to different people.

If a gallery, exhibition sponsor or collector uses the term "artist price" I strongly recommend that you ask them to clarify what they mean. Sometimes a person uses the term "artist price" as some kind of special discounted price off retail or wholesale. Beware . . . you would not believe the long sad tales I have heard. Don't use the term "artist price".  

The INSURANCE VALUE may also be a confusing term. Most artists, galleries, and exhibition sponsors usually equate the insurance value as the wholesale price. Most insurance companies will only pay the artist the wholesale price if the work is lost, damaged or stolen during shipping or at an exhibition because this is what the artist would receive if the work was sold.

Insurance value steps up to the retail price as soon as the artwork is sold at retail. The invoice for purchase will be the documentation an insurance provider wants to see to establish the insurance value at the retail price.

This is true regardless of who sold the artwork at retail (whether an artist or gallery/store/exhibition sponsor). Insurance value will be full retail when the work is sold at retail.

The insurance value for a collector is either the purchase price or current market value in the marketplace. If the retail price of an artist's work has increased over the years, a collector may want to periodically check to be sure their insurance policy covers the current market value of the work in their collection. Some insurance companies may require an appraisal to establish insurance value. 

This is the beginning of the discussion. The next posts describe insurance value, wholesale price and retail price for shipping, and some real stories resulting from confusion with exhibitions.   These will be real stories, but I will try to keep it simple for clarity and to avoid revealing names of the innocent and the guilty.

Conversation U
from a series of 200 teacups titled "Consuming Conversation".

This is the image for a retrospective exhibition of my work that was on display from August 27, 2012 to September 28, 2012 at:

Kimura Gallery, University of Alaska Anchorage,

This post was updated on June 13, 2022, to provide current links.

Preservation, Conservation, Experimentation -- Using Alternative Materials

A reader raises a profound question about the use of impermanent materials in an artists' or makers' work.

I have a question about how far a maker's responsibility goes for the 'lastingness' of a product. This was brought to mind recently because someone had a museum-quality bowl by a famous artist that was developing serious finish issues due to the use of polyethylene glycol as a soak to preserve the color in the material. We also sometimes see pieces put together with questionable adhesives, etc. I understand the importance of experimentation, but it troubles me as my responsibilities include the preservation and conservation of artworks.

Is this a question that has gotten much or any attention? 

I was really hoping that this was a question that artists were asking themselves (and each other) on some level.

Signed, A Concerned Curator
Glasses without a person so we can look closely at preservation, conservation, experimentation

Dear Concerned Curator,

Issues of the impermanence of materials, experimentation with materials, and long-term preservation and conservation of artworks are really complex.

The use of experimental or untested materials is a reflection of our society in a way. We applaud artists that use new materials or untested methods. The tried and true may be perceived as boring, been there, done that. Even the idea of "permanent" anything isn’t given very high regard. Buy cheap, express the "now," and throw it away seems like a pervasive trend of our culture.

Let's expand on the issues swirling around the use of alternative, untested, or experimental materials. Conservation becomes a concern of the owner, collector, or museum. I am betting that museum curators and professionals need more solutions.  To buy, or not to exhibit or not to exhibit when just the act of putting work on display (even in a  controlled environment) may cause further damage. 

Let's itemize some of the profound issues:

  • the impermanence of materials,
  • experimentation with alternative or unproven materials, and
  • long term preservation and conservation of artwork.

Conflicting perspectives abound on these issues which would provide topic material for endless debates.  So here are my dueling opinions. 

The artist has a responsibility to consciously choose how the work is made and what is intended for long-term display (if any). Basically, I think this leads to four possible scenarios from the artist's perspective:

1) Consciously choose to make impermanent work and know it will not last. The work of Andy Goldsworthy or of Eva Hesse are just such examples.

2) Consciously choose to make permanent work and use the best materials available.  e.g. Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel.

3) Consciously choose the risk of using unknown materials and accept whatever the outcome.

4) Ignore the impermanence or untested aspect of your materials and pretend indifference.

The first three are valid approaches and should be honestly communicated to any audience or potential purchaser.  The fourth scenario is questionable.

The materials used in a work will certainly affect its long-term conservation and preservation - and possibly its value.

Raise awareness
This question should certainly be on the minds of all artists who want to have their work purchased.  Artists have every right to choose how to make their work.  

What is the responsibility of the artist during fabrication?

What is the responsibility of the artist/owner? For storage? For display?

What is the responsibility of the exhibitor? Lighting? Hanging? For some work, just the fact that it is on display is destructive? 

What about care and maintenance?
Is polishing to restore the original finish a destructive act?
Is refinishing, removing grunge, old varnish, crackled surface restoration or destruction?

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW where they discuss how to preserve wood furniturefurnitureIf you ever watch Antiques Roadshow you hear the voice of the experts. Each material seems to have its own definition for proper care and maintenance.

As an artist, do you think about how to care for your work? 

Should the collector/curator have the same responsibility? It might surprise the artist to consider that a collector/curator may not have the same expectation for care and maintenance, or original finish as the original maker.

Please tell us what you think?

Have you ever thought about this before? 


The next posts will break up this enormous issue into a series of thoughts. I've heard opinions from collectors. I have practical recommendations for my work.  What about you?

This post was updated on February 18, 2022.

Insurance at an Exhibition - An update!

On November 21, 2011, I wrote a post on ASK Harriete titled, No Insurance at an Exhibition...What Shall I Do?  It sparked considerable debate...and now an update!

The post concluded that exhibition sponsors should provide insurance covering participating work during an exhibition.  This is simply a minimum professional standard. Yes, there are exceptions, but this conclusion should apply to exhibitions sponsored by larger organizations and exhibitions open to nationwide or international participants.  Such "professional" level exhibitions should adhere to professional standards that are discernibly higher than a local trunk show.


Everready Working Woman by Harriete Estel Berman is a autobiographical appliance.72
Everready Working Woman © 1984
Autobiographical sculpture in the form
of a domestic appliance.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

The post was inspired by a reader and my own personal and professional experience. More than once, I have had to say to a friend or respected colleague, "I will be in your show, but only if there is insurance."



Wishing that an exhibition offered insurance doesn't make it happen.
Wishing that you didn't have to make hard choices doesn't solve the problem.

Perhaps just as importantly, raising a difficult issue for public discussion may not solve all problems, but it certainly raises awareness. Questioning perceived problems early may cause sponsors to take a second look.

The original post revolved around two shows for an upcoming SNAG Conference. 

FIVE WEEKS LATER- good news!

ScottsdaleCultural CouncilSNAG has been in talks with the Scottsdale Cultural Council for many weeks about the insurance issue at the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts.  The Cultural Council just informed SNAG that the exhibitions in the atrium of the SCPA WILL be covered by their insurance. Ultimately SNAG learned that the Risk Manager did not understand what would be produced at the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts site.

SNAG logo 2012 FINAL revised mediumI have also learned that all SNAG-sponsored exhibitions are covered by insurance.

The two exhibitions (under discussion) are not SNAG-sponsored exhibitions; they are independently produced to occur concurrently with the conference to take advantage of the huge audience.

None of this was related to SNAG's budget, it was never a financial issue.

This is all good news but demonstrates how important it is to establish clear expectations about professional standards. This is not about making anyone into a bad guy. No one is a villain. Discussion and advocacy for standards are not about policing enforcement. Each artist and maker has responsibility for advocacy in their community.

Wishes may apply to magic lanterns, blowing out candles, or Santa Claus.
Goals take sweat, tears, working through frustrations, and sometimes hard decisions.



Establish a clear goal that exhibitions in which your artwork will be displayed should have insurance.  Artists/makers should be especially concerned when shipping their work to a remote location where it will be unpacked, installed, displayed, then un-installed, and repacked by someone other than themselves.

In a recent lecture at the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild symposium Forging Communities, Brigitte Martin said, "Setting a goal will lead you and direct you toward the place you want to end up."

Raise your expectations, . . .  and then you will find opportunities that meet your expectations.


This post was updated on February 18, 2022.

Magic lanterns exhibition poster from 1889


No Insurance at an Exhibition....What Shall I Do?

A true story. 
I saw an announcement for an upcoming show with a great title at a very nice museum.

It sounds like a great opportunity -- until I read..."Please note that while the exhibition space is secure, the museum will not be providing insurance.  Return shipping costs must be covered by the artist..."

Draw a line in the sand

Huh? No insurance?
Makers and artists are asked to give so much, but to give up even on insurance?  Well, that is my professional line in the sand.

Then....a repeat situation.
Days later, another invitation for a show says, "Please be sure to take a close look at the bottom section of the document as it contains very important information regarding insurance and shipping. Please note that insurance and delivery (both ways) is the responsibility of the artist!"

What?  Again, no insurance, no shipping?

Draw a line in the sand for your principles

I am appalled, dumbfounded, and frankly very concerned. Is this a growing trend? Has insurance, the most basic protection for a participating maker, become optional?

Amateur exhibitions might not have insurance.  Professional exhibitions do. A local club or small group might not have insurance, but a major institutional exhibition should.

Three years ago I responded to a question on ASK Harriete, "What do you recommend if a show has no insurance?"  I said "no," an absolute and unconditional "no".

Draw a line in the sand

"Even if there are pedestals with vitrines, the work still has the highest risk of damage during installation of the show and when the show is being taken down."  Thirty-plus years of exhibiting my work have demonstrated this fact to me on too many occasions. Theft during the exhibition is another relevant issue.

We all hope that the insurance coverage isn't needed, but it is just this guarantee to the artist that raises professional exhibitions above the lower-level venues and events.  Participating artists are assured that their work will be protected with superior handling AND will have a "backup plan" in case of damage.

Sure, artists and makers can buy their own insurance, but insurance from the exhibition sponsor indicates that work will be displayed professionally and demonstrates motivation for the best handling possible.

The people organizing the show may have the best intentions, but this issue of no insurance is more than an erosion of standards. They are transferring onto the makers all of the risks and responsibilities of unpacking work, setting up and exhibiting work, taking down and repacking work, and shipping.  Although they will "do their best" -- without insurance, they are abdicating any and all liability and responsibility.  Something will happen.  Then the maker bears all the risk, yet has no control -- except to decline to participate.

Draw a line in the sand again and again

How can any organization that purports to support and advance the professional practices of artists, or makers
endorse an exhibition without insurance?  Where is the education and leadership that demonstrates the hard choices necessary as a community that represents artists and makers at the highest level?

These hard choices start with artists or makers. It starts with you. An individual can demonstrate leadership by refusing to participate in a show that does not measure up to their professional standards. 

Line in the sand with many hands

Draw your own line in the sand.
A polite letter or email stating the reasons why you can not participate in an exhibition or opportunity that does not meet professional standards is taking a stand for advocacy in your community.

This issue is not about one organization or one show. It is about every show. It is about every opportunity.

There are many resources to help guide every artist, maker, craftsperson, crafter, organization, or exhibition sponsor.

ASK Harriete regularly offers advice and opinions
about the best professional practices for artists and makers.

The Professional Guidelines offers several documents with information about exhibitions.

Exhibitions: Artist Checklist   This PDF document includes information and questions artists may want to ask the sponsor of any exhibition. Also includes Artist Responsibilities for an exhibition.

Exhibition Contract This document addresses noncommercial exhibitions where the main intent is not the sale of work but rather the showcasing of artwork for the purposes of education, information, or public consideration. Included is an overview detailing and explaining each clause of the contract and the multiple options offered.

Consignment Contract This document includes an Introduction, and Overview offering a complete explanation for each clause in the Consignment Contract with possible options for the artist and gallery. This is followed by a complete Consignment Contract that can be used in whole or part by artists and galleries to cover many issues involved in developing a good working relationship.

Juried Exhibitions  This document presents an ideal scenario for organizing a juried exhibition drawn from the collective experience of the Professional Guidelines Committee members. A well-organized exhibition benefits the sponsor, the artists, and the craft field at large. These guidelines are primarily intended for the sponsors of a juried exhibition: galleries, museums, schools, or other organizations. They are designed to enhance the organization's ability to conduct a successful juried exhibition and to clearly describe the sponsor’s and the juror’s responsibilities.

Draw a line in the sand for yourself and every artist "No insurance, no show" may seem easy to say, I understand.  Some will argue that a show without insurance is better than no show at all.  And I would agree that a local show where the artist is actively involved changes the scenario.  But a major institution or organization should adhere to and support the best professional practices.

We all lose if we continue to accept declining standards.  It is an issue that every artist, maker, and organization needs to address. Participation in shows without insurance endorse substandard professional practices.

What do you think?  Where would you draw your line in the sand?


P.S. This post was inspired by both personal and professional experiences. An update is posted on ASK Harriete titled Insurance at an Exhibition - An Update.

This post was updated on February 16, 2022.

Burned by burnt paintings! Oh no! What shall I do?

Dear Harriete,

A good friend of mine opened a café and I had my paintings/giclees* exhibited there. Last week she had a fire. Most of my work was either destroyed or damaged. My husband also had photography work there and it was smoke damaged. She was under the impression that her business partner had upgraded their insurance to include the artwork (mine was not the only one) and other new equipment that they had acquired. Guess he didn’t. Am I without recourse? Thank You.

By the way, I did have one small piece which was a watercolor framed under glass. The glass protected the painting so that was good.
JK Sanders

 JK Sanders mural before the fire
"Marcies Ghost" © 2008
Mural, Acrylic on wall 2.5' by 4'
Artist: JK Sanders

Wow, very sorry to hear about your work and your friend's business setback. This illustrates the importance of a contract. The primary reason for a contract is not enforcement but to give both parties a checklist of things to do and verify.
If both you and the cafe owner had taken a few moments initially to look over and discuss the issues typically itemized in a contract (including insurance), perhaps this situation would have a better outcome.  

If the venue owner had signed a contract that included an Inventory List specifying the total number of items and value of the exhibited work, then their level of responsibility would have been clear. As it is now, they can easily claim that they never promised insurance coverage or that you knowingly displayed your work at your own risk.  You have only a verbal conversation which is not much to stand on legally.  In this case, I don't think you have any recourse without documentation of the conversation.


JK Sanders mural damaged by fire
"Marcies Ghost" (with damage by fire)

Given the circumstances, it looks like you cannot prove an expectation for insurance.  Both you and the restaurant owner are responsible for this situation. I don't mean to be unkind and I am not a legal expert, so this is just my opinion. Your legal case is weak and hiring a lawyer will cost more money. You could consider taking them to small claims court and making an enemy of a friend. All of these are hard choices. Maybe the cafe owner will voluntarily give you an amount of money out of the goodness of their heart. That is a lot to ask or expect considering their significant loss.


JK Sanders watercolor
"Maxwells Garden View"  and
"Tibby's Trophy" © 2001 (before fire)
Artist: JK Sanders

JK Sanders watercolor
"Maxwells Garden View" 
© 2001 (with fire damage)
watercolor,  24"X30"
Artist: JK Sanders

This is a very hard way to learn a difficult lesson. We can hope that other artists will learn from your well-intentioned but harsh experience.

There are two sample contracts in the Professional Guidelines that can be downloaded for free. Either contract can easily be modified to suit both parties and adapted to the circumstances.  It shouldn't be an adversarial discussion but contracts do oblige both parties to consider "what if" problems.

The Consignment Contract focuses more on retail sales and representation.

The Exhibition Contract is designed for a situation where retail sales are not the primary focus.

Here is a link to the one page handout in the Professional Guidelines which is useful for preliminary discussions when showing your work at any venue. Print it out and keep this on your desk so that you know which topics are already available for your reference.


JKSanders watercolor with fire damage
Coffee Cat Series damaged in the fire.
Artist: JK Sanders

One more issue.   In any scenario where artwork may be exhibited, (especially in an unsupervised environment such as a restaurant where it may be touched), I would fill out a Condition Report before the work is installed. This way if it is returned damaged in any way, you have documentation of its prior condition. 

Despite all this documentation, the primary focus is always to establish a good working relationship. On occasion we all take calculated risks for an exhibition opportunity, so clarifying responsibilities ahead of time tends to be helpful for all parties as events unfold.  It is unfortunate that this one turned out so badly.

If anyone has another suggestion, please leave a comment. I'd like to hear what you have to say. Maybe there is another solution that I didn't consider.

*giclée - the use of ink-jet printing to manufacture artistic prints


Stay tuned for the next posts about galleries and stores that don't pay on time, sample order terms, and net 30 Applications.

This post was updated on January 11, 2022. 

Insurance for a trunk show at my house?

Hello Harriete,
A friend has hosted a sale in her apartment for myself and another friend so that the three of us could invite family and acquaintances to share new work and possibly sell some as well.  Our last sale was put together before the holiday season and was surprisingly well attended.  We judged it a success.  We decided to plan for a Valentine's Day sale when we ran into a potential problem.

"Par Lobbe" (brooches) © 2009
composite and epoxy resin, fabricated
copper, paint, dyed cotton cord,
Artist: Jullian Moore
8" x 4" x 2.75" (largest brooch)

Her insurance company wants her to buy an expanded policy, but she believes they are eager to get more money from her. Her rental insurance has all the basic liability coverage--if a stranger or guest were injured in her home or slipped on ice outside, that would be covered.  Also, the landlord has a policy on the home.

We thought of this in the same vein as floating markets, private restaurant clubs, and home galleries that are a current trend because of the poor economy.  Are all of these establishments buying separate policies for private, low-key events?  I had really thought we'd stumbled into something great, and I'd hate for this to be ruined by bureaucratic b.s. but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised if that's the case.

Thank you for all of the hard work you do for all of us!
Jillian Moore

CERF stickerThis is a financially loaded question so I went directly to the expert on insurance, Craig Nutt, the Director of Programs at CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund).  He was also a past speaker for SNAG's  Professional Development Seminar with his Insurance Show. (I was the applause lady for his program as you can see in the photo below.) I knew Craig would have the answer to Jullian's questions.

Here is Craig's reply:ApplauseLADY                "CERF is about to release a report on the business survey we conducted with 6 national craft organizations including SNAG.  One of the things that came through like a freight train was the fact that a great many artists mistakenly believe that their homeowner's insurance provides some coverage for their business activity.  We estimate that about 57% of all respondents to the survey are in this category.

CERF A very small number of those surveyed had actually obtained coverage for their home-based businesses through a special endorsement ("rider") on their homeowner's insurance policy. (Many homeowner policies have an allowance for a home office of about $2500, intended to cover a computer, desk, file cabinets … stuff associated with a home office.) 

Dollars in hand Some artists think that they can fly under the radar and avoid insurance issues.  But insurance companies do not care if you have a business license, pay your sales tax, or comply with any of the laws businesses are supposed to obey.  They have a simple test: do you receive money for goods or services, or are you offering goods or services for sale.  If so, you are not covered.  That means no insurance on your tools, supplies, inventory, and in fact, on the building in which your business is conducted.  Also, very important to the person holding the trunk show or hosting a studio tour, no liability insuranceThis means if someone slips on the steps coming to your trunk show, the liability insurance that would cover a casual visitor under normal circumstances is no good.  That is because you are offering goods for sale.

To get a quote on business insurance, artists need to go to companies that specialize in that type of insurance.  Forget about the Allstates, Geikos, etc.  Sure, some agents may not find time for you, because the commissions are not big, but most agents I have met take their calling seriously and are willing to talk to people, regardless of how much money they stand to make.  Ask other artists who have well-run businesses who their agents are.

CERF has information on business insurance at this location on the CERF website. This includes names of companies and organizations that have business insurance plans for artists. Fractured Atlas, an artist service organization, offers a number of targeted plans and is working on a plan for craft artists.

CERF also offers a guidebook on business insurance for artists by clicking here.





Also, CERF will soon be consolidating its preparedness and recovery information at:   To the left,  you can see the Studio Protector wall guide which every artist should have on the studio wall (and begin putting it into practice). The site has more in-depth information on topics covered in the wall guide.  They are both useful alone but are meant to function together.

Thanks for your support of CERF, and for all you do to promote good business practices to artists!  All my best,

Craig Nutt, Director of Programs
Craft Emergency Relief Fund

Craig's key point is that none of the typical homeowner or renter's insurance policies cover any liabilities during entrepreneurial events such as trunk shows or home sales. Of course, you can choose to not have insurance and take the risk yourself.  That's up to you, but it would be better to investigate the alternatives for business insurance that are available.   

An alternative might be to have a purely social gathering and display your work with no sales.  Then if anyone wants to purchase an item, tell them that any sale would have to be arranged at a later time and different location.    

I hope this answers your question about insurance. Check out the CERF website for more information. 


This post was updated on January 8, 2022, to provide current links.