October 17, 2018 / 3:17 PM / a month ago

A pity to throw it away: insurer stores damaged art in Germany

COLOGNE, (Germany) (Reuters) - What happens to artworks which are too badly damaged to be restored once the insurer has paid out the claim?

Naief Abou of German art logistics company Roggendorf Master Packer unpacks the damaged sculpture "Waescherin" by an unknown artist during a media tour in a depot of German art insurer AXA Art that stores damaged art in Cologne, Germany, October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

Up to 300 of them - scratched, torn or punctured works by well-known artists including Gerhard Richter, Christo and Giorgio de Chirico - are stored in an AXA warehouse near the western German city of Cologne.

One of the world’s biggest art insurers, AXA receives claims every year for damage to paintings, sculptures and drawings. Some 80 percent of them can be restored.

The rest, which either cannot be or are to expensive to be repaired come to this warehouse.

“We store artworks, objects and collectors items by notable artists for which we have compensated our customers, we take ownership of them and keep them for the future,” said Kai Kuklinski, head of AXA Art Insurance.

“The main goal is to keep this art as it is too much of a pity to throw it away,” he said.

AXA gives some pieces, which include paintings, collectors items and antiquities, to research projects. Some are auctioned for charity and others kept, in case they can be repaired later, once restoration techniques have improved.

“Otherwise, we keep things for many many years, up to decades, in our warehouse,” said Kuklinksi.

Works in the Cologne warehouse include a damaged offset print of Christo’s “Wrapped Reichstag”.

Another is “Black Red Gold”, a painting by Gerhard Richter which was damaged because of the way it was hung.

One of the most unusual items is a painting by Giorgio de Chirico which was almost destroyed when a wrecking ball from next door ripped through it as it hung on the wall of a house.

Reporting by Thilo Schmuelgen and Petra Wischgoll; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Peter Graff

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