2008: Fragility

Exhibition at AXA ART Lounhe during TEFAF Maastricht draws attention to the importance of protecting artifacts.

Chocolate melts, glass breaks, stone erodes, silk rots, ceramic cracks and photographs and manuscripts fade – sooner or later, all art degrades. Even the most durable of metals will eventually wear, scratch and corrode. Depending on the medium, this process can be centuries long or happen alarmingly fast. Art objects age or disappear, sometimes to re-emerge in the fragments of an archaeological trove, worthy of modern, high-technology analysis. 

From the antique to the contemporary, artists and collectors of their work have been struggling with the inherent fragile nature of cultural heirlooms and the importance of proper care, maintenance and preventive conservation to preserve them for future generations. Art Historian, Gary Schwartz, estimates that as little as one percent of mankind’s total artistic heritage has survived to this day. 

AXA Art, the premier global art insurance specialist is using its presence at The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) this year to highlight the importance of protecting art through the proper care.  

“Fragility”, an exhibition on display at the AXA Art lounge and information booth features a colorful selection of vibrant objets d’art ranging from a stucco head of a Bodhisattva Gandhara from the second or third century AD (damaged during the 2005 Armory Fair in New York, and now fully restored) to a motor-driven ceiling mobile of 500 origami elephants made of US dollar bills by contemporary Italian artist Fabio Viale. 

Today’s art market is a global one that offers collectors new opportunities, resulting in the rapid growth of art sales around the world. While collectors are usually captivated by the aesthetic beauty, rarity, or quality of a particular piece or genre, thoughts of degradation and protection do not feature too highly during purchase With global shipping, storage and display of art objects prevalent, the risk of accidental damage and inherent wear and tear is real and constant. Even storage can take its toll, with temperature and humidity extremes, acidic micro dust, electro-smog and a whole host of mechanical, chemical and physical influences possessing the capacity to wreak havoc on the quality and state of objects. The natural aging and degradation of an object is not insurable, which makes it essential that collectors understand the inherent characteristics of the materials their art objects are made out of and learn about proper care and preservation. The recent bold heists at museums in Switzerland highlight yet another dimension of vulnerability – security related aspects. 

 “TEFAF offers AXA Art a premier platform to bring attention to an area of increasing interest to the international art community, “ remarks Dr. Ulrich Guntram, AXA Art’s global CEO. “AXA Art underscores its commitment to protecting art through a variety of initiatives and grants such as The AXA Art Research Grant, which supports research in cutting edge technology and methodology in the preservation of works of art”. 

Recipients of the AXA Art Research Grant include “The Modern Paints Project” in conjunction with the TATE, the “AXA Art Ad Reinhardt Research Project” in conjunction with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and The Museum of Modern Art and “The AXA Art Conservation Research Project in conjunction with the Vitra Design Museum”.

Hot off the press is a publication highlighting the research and to-date results of the TATE Modern Paints Project - just in time for collectors visiting TEFAF. 
Visitors to TEFAF will also benefit from AXA Art’s expertise and resources, which includes offerings of guided tours of the fair in several languages. Participants will be offered a general introduction to treasures, rare objects and sensations out of thousands of pieces of art on exhibition. 

  • © AXA ART Versicherung AG, 2016