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You’ve bought some art. Now what?

A guide for new fine art collectors

By Harry Syms and Ruby Chan | December 14, 2023

What to think about when building and protecting an art collection? Our Fine Art insurance specialists share some practical matters to consider once you have made your purchase.

Starting an art collection is an exciting and rewarding undertaking. It involves hours of research, learning, and exploring galleries and art fairs. Below, our specialists in the WTW Fine Art team share some practical matters to consider once you have made your purchase:

  1. 01


    The auctioneer’s gavel has fallen. The dealer has telephoned to accept your offer. The artist has agreed to part with their latest creation. What do you do next?

    Once you have paid, and title has passed to your name, you can begin the process of relocating the artwork to its new home.

  2. 02


    You will need to consider the transit itself, but also the suitability of the location to which it will be transported. Does the artwork’s new home have appropriate physical protections in place? If the artwork is of any significant value, insurers would expect it to be protected by a centrally linked and monitored fire and burglar alarm system, in a location that is kept in good structural order and visited regularly by the artwork’s owner or their employee.

  3. 03

    Climate control

    Some risks to the safety of an artwork are obvious (theft, fire, water damage), but others less so: sunlight and other strong light sources, temperature fluctuations, humidity and pollution are some of the most common environmental risks for artwork and should certainly be considered.

    What temperature and humidity are appropriate depends on the artwork’s medium. An oil painting, wooden sculpture, and an installation made of animal fat would each have different requirements. When in doubt, you may consult your dealer, auction house, or a professional conservator.

    Depending on your geographical location, climate control measures can also vary. For example, if you are in a location with a dry climate, you might need a humidifier – textiles and wood are at risk of becoming brittle and paint may flake if there is not enough moisture in the atmosphere. In contrast, if your artwork is kept somewhere very humid, a dehumidifier becomes essential to prevent mould.

    If your artwork can be framed, it is always a good idea to have it framed with glazing, which can act as a physical barrier to protect the artwork from impact, dust, humidity or water, and contaminants. Good quality glazing also offers protection against UV light.

    Gradual deterioration caused by normal climate influences, while unavoidable, can be significantly minimized and slowed down with proper care and climate control.

  4. 04


    Besides these physical protections, we would recommend that you buy fine art insurance to incept on the date that you take ownership of your artwork. Private collector policies typically give worldwide cover, including transits, but it would be prudent to check this with your broker and to advise them before any insured artwork is moved. Your policy should include details of the artwork’s permanent new home (or homes, if you wish to move the artwork between properties during the policy period.) Fine art policies are designed specifically to give collectors’ the broadest possible insurance for high value artworks, typically on an “agreed value” basis, with automatic additional coverage for items that form part of a pair or set and for new acquisitions.

  5. 05


    The majority of claims happen when an artwork is moved from one location to another. As such, we would always recommend that you employ a specialist fine art shipper.

    Historically, artworks have been relocated by air – and they still are relocated by air if they are particularly fragile or required in a great hurry – but more people are now sending art by sea, as they become more mindful of carbon emissions. It is worth noting that your insurer will certainly require you advise them before you send an insured artwork by sea as the risks are far greater and more varied on a ship than they are in a plane; for example, they will request that the artwork be placed under deck, and in a fully-loaded container. However transported, the artwork must be packaged by a competent professional art handler – most likely by the logistics company.

    Getting the artwork from the street to its final destination can also pose problems. As more and more people live in tower blocks, and the scale of some art increases, we are seeing more artworks craned into upper storey apartments. This of course carries its own risk and should certainly be managed by the fine art logistics company.

  6. 06


    Many collectors often do not have enough space at home for their works and so consider external storage. A self-store unit on the edge of town will likely not be appropriate as your insurers will expect the artwork to benefit from the same levels of physical and climatic protection detailed above. You should always advise your Insurers beforehand as storage facilities are aggregation hotspots for them and they will need to monitor their exposures.

  7. 07


    Now you have a well-established collection, you may consider lending an artwork to an exhibition.

    Many collectors are happy to lend their artworks, as well-curated exhibitions at reputable museums can enhance an artwork’s exhibition history, which in turn helps increase the artwork’s value.

    While lending is common practice, collectors are still advised to be cautious and take necessary steps to safeguard their collection. First and foremost, research must be done on the museum and the exhibition to establish whether lending to them is worthwhile.

    Questions to ask include
    • Does the museum have a good reputation?
    • What is the narrative and direction of the exhibition?
    • Who is the curator, and what is their experience and exhibition record?
    • Who are the other collectors invited to participate? What are the works they will be lending?
    • How will your loan enhance the exhibition?
    • Who will insure the artwork whilst it’s on loan?

    Getting answers to the above questions should help identify whether a potential loan will be beneficial to your artwork and to you as a collector.

  8. 08

    Valuations, appraisals and sale

    Perhaps some time has passed since you first acquired your artwork, or the artist’s stock has risen, and so you are considering a reappraisal or sale of your artwork.

    Always make sure to find a reputable appraiser to handle your artwork. At the very least, the appraiser should be licensed to ensure the resulting valuation certificate will be widely recognized by auction houses, dealers, and insurers. Appraisers often have specialties and are experts in specific types of art, differentiated by style and period. Appraisers would specify this in their biography, or you may request their CV. Use this information to identify appraisers that would be the most suitable for your artwork. Alternatively, your insurance broker would be able to recommend a suitable appraiser.

    If you decide to sell your artwork, inform your insurance broker so they can adjust your policy accordingly and refund any premium for the remainder of the policy year.


Associate Director - Fine Art and Specie, UK
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Account Executive - Fine Art and Specie, Asia

(English, Cantonese & Mandarin Speaker)

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