Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Insure yourself: a cautionary tail

A couple of weeks ago I had an unpleasant experience. It started when one of my closest friends forgot my birthday. But that wasn’t unpleasant, my birthday is just after Christmas, and someone always forgets it, and like everyone I occasionally miss a birthday too, so I thought nothing of it. And when, a few days later she offered to buy me lunch to make up for it, I was positively pleased she had forgotten. I will crawl across broken glass for a nice lunch out.

“I have got you the best present” said my friend L as I tucked into Italian salad, and went on to explain that she had put in a word for me at the business centre where she works, and they wanted to display my art on the walls. This was good news indeed, I am not stuffy about where I display my work, and have had more sales from cafes and offices than smart galleries. There is something about people having time to ‘get to know’ a painting that makes them more likely to buy.

The receptionist seemed to be in charge of sorting it out, so I arranged to take a painting to show her, although I soon discovered that the reception job was shared between several people. The offices were large with a reassuring security button entrance, past the reception area, no access to the general public. They were modern and clean, with large hallways and a hireable conference room. Receptionist 1 liked my work and asked me to bring in as much as I like.

Over the next couple of weeks I retrieved paintings from here and there, in order to rotate the ones I had out, and have enough to display at the business centre, the paintings were cleaned, wrapped for transportation, new ones were labelled and they were logged out in the book I use to keep track of them. 3 small posters were designed and laminated to give information on the artwork. 12 paintings were taken to the business centre where receptionist 2 was delighted to receive them, and as I left was arranging to have them hung.

2 weeks later I bumped into L at the gym, asking her how the paintings looked, I was disturbed to find that they had not hung them yet. I phoned the centre. Receptionist 1 answered and asked frostily if the work was insured.  I explained that my insurance only covers properly curated gallery exhibitions, and that she should check to see if the centre’s insurance covered them. I asked her to phone me straight back. Another week went by and my daughter scribbled a phone message back on my desk. The work is not insured it said, please contact us. (On the plus side the teen took a message!)

Now it is not that insurance is unimportant, or that they should not have raised the issue. But it should have been raised at the initial meeting. They left my work laying around in a back room without contacting me, time is most definitely money (as is petrol) and they have wasted mine.  Arranging quickly to collect my work, I arrived to meet a new receptionist (number 3.) She was charming and apologetic as she handed me a form; “sorry” she said, “but I can’t give you the work unless you sign a release form” Nice that they were now doing things by the book, and I wondered what would happen if I told them to shove their form. But it wasn’t her fault, and I even resisted signing it “Van Gogh.”

The worst of it is, I think I have been a victim of office politics. Perhaps the good intentions of my friend put someone’s nose out of joint, or one of the receptionists did not like the other one. I temped in offices for enough years to know about the petty vindictive practices that some long term employees thrive on. My three laminated posters have also disappeared, even though I asked for them back.

I am too busy to worry about it at present, and will address the issue of insurance when my new studio is built. Meantime perhaps I will display the work in my favourite local French cafĂ© again. The walls are made of something resembling cream cheese, and the ever changing display of artwork only stays up by a combination of luck, and the fact that gravity has so far been too busy to take an interest. And on the day one of the paintings falls on someone’s head, the owners will no doubt look them in the eye, and explain in the epitome of French politeness (the sort that gives the person they are speaking to no doubt of their inferiority) “Ah oui madam, but I think perhaps you should av choose a different seat, no?”


  1. Great to see that your sense of humour remains intact through all these unfortunate events, Michele, as well as your cold!

  2. How sad to loose all that art. I agree with Judy and admire your ability to laugh at it.
    Humor is the only way to get through a lot of things isn't it?

  3. The number of times one has a great lead, one gets all inspired and tells others, then only to find that the venture fizzles into nothing. I was approached to get things together for a solo show this coming summer, this was so exciting but it came to nothing. It is as if the person who had contacted and encouraged me had forgotten all about it and later responded as if they had not suggested it in the first place.

  4. Oh thank goodness! I thought you were going to say the paintings had been stolen, or damaged somehow in that back room! Glad they're safe.

    Elsa Neal