Insurance for Artists: Protection from Loss and Lawsuits

by guest blogger Marlo Speith

Are you prepared? What you need to know about protecting your small business from peril and liability.

Marcel Duchamp, best known for Fountain, was a conceptual Dada artist, presenting ideas instead of finished products. He sought to constantly disrupt moments of seriousness with those of play… To that end, a coat rack was nailed to the floor of his studio. Instead of moving naturally and efficiently to their destination, it forced people to take extra steps.




Duchamp and his posse may have hoped for a party guest to trip over it. This would be a great act of Dada art: interrupting socialization with slapstick. He called the piece, Trébuchet (“Trap”; more on that here).

While delightfully absurd, this piece is tragically perilous. Someone getting hurt on your property, especially property used for business, can be a legal nightmare.  

Imagine someone is walking through your booth at an art show. They catch their foot on a cord and catapult forward. Not only do they face plant on the floor, their flailing arms destroy one of your pieces. There’s two things at play here: losses and lawsuits.

What protects you against losses and lawsuits?

One word: insurance. Insurance—and multiple types—is critical for all small businesses. Let’s examine the “lost money” part. Obviously, the destroyed piece was potential revenue. This is where legal foresight is critical, specifically: property insurance.

A venue—a gallery or exposition space—may have its own insurance policy. The former has been widely known, however, for pushing this responsibility onto the artist. Even if the place has insurance, sometimes these policies aren’t comprehensive. Therefore, it always behooves you to have your own insurance policy that covers spaces outside of your studio. Make sure that all of your works and supplies are covered, both during their stay and in transit. Furthermore, all products must be covered while in your studio. Even if your studio is in your home, it likely isn’t covered by homeowner’s insurance, because it’s your workplace. Consider further reading at Art Business Info to understand the nitty gritty of different kinds of insurance.

Next, there is the “lawsuit” part of the situation. Slip-and-fall accidents are popular in the realm of personal injury lawsuits. Suppose that the customer decides to sue you for injuries and has a case that you were at fault. Needless to say, this is a very bad situation. Luckily, there exists lifesaving precaution: liability insurance. Again, the venue may have this—called “event liability insurance”, but it often won’t cover you in every situatio. The same truth holds: you may need a separate plan to cover your studio versus external venues (trade shows, in transit, in a gallery, etc.)

Where can you find affordable, relevant coverage?

If you’re looking to get insurance, consider a company that works specifically with artists, such as Fractured Atlas or  ACT insurance. They will have comprehensive plans that should cover you in situations relevant to artists. If you’d like someone to review your insurance and make sure you’re protected, consider Avvo’s lawyer hotline. A business attorney can review your current insurance plans and give you feedback. Equally, a business accountant or CPA would likely have insight into any holes or missing coverage.

To conclude, when considering insurance, try to be a pessimist. Think of the most awful things that could happen by accident and be sure that your insurance would protect you from those.


Marlo SpiethMarlo Spieth writes and does outreach. She works for Avvo, who offers online legal services.



Please note: The views and opinions expressed herein are the author’s alone and do not represent Avvo. Please acknowledge that legal information herein consists of third party data and contributions, that there are certain inherent limitations to the accuracy or currency of such information, that legal and other information may be incomplete, may contain inaccuracies, or may be based on opinion. 


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