Insuring fine arts. Policies covering artworks later deemed to be fraudulent can create coverage questions for insurers and the owners of the works. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Who owns history asked Robert R. Cargill, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, in the May/June 2019, issue. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) had paid nearly $4 million for a golden coffin sometime after 1971. “The art dealer who sold the coffin to the Met presented phony documents making it appear that the coffin had proper provenance, including a forged Egyptian export license claiming the object had been legally acquired in 1971.” Upon learning this, the Met closed the display and returned the gilded coffin to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. “Provenance” is the process of determining origin, ownership history and validity of a valuable art piece. Without such documentation, valuation becomes difficult.

When individuals, museums, libraries and other commercial entities buy or sell an important piece of art, book or other high-value items, they often seek insurance to protect their investment. This is usually an “all-risk” or open-peril policy except as excluded on the inland marine form called a “fine arts floater” covering the item wherever it is located or in transit.

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