The Liabilities of Selling Art at Open-Air Markets (& How to Protect Yourself)

image courtesy of CBS Los Angeles

image courtesy of CBS Los Angeles

The Liabilities of Selling Art at Open-Air Markets (& How to Protect Yourself)

It’s hard to deny the appeal of open-air art markets: they get you in front of new potential buyers, let you network with other artists in your area, and provide invaluable real-time feedback about the work you’ve poured your heart and soul into.

But what if something goes wrong? What if, for example, a careless visitor trips over your display items, falls, and breaks a bone? Will you be expected to pay their medical bills?

Or what if your display falls over and damages another vendor’s artwork?

The good news is that a standard commercial general liability insurance policy can usually cover these incidents.

Common Insurance Requirements for Open-Air Art Markets

If you’re looking at a contract for running a booth at an open-air market and wondering why you’re required to carry general liability insurance, don’t worry: this is a standard request.

Market organizers typically want vendors to have this policy because it can pay for two of the most common accidents:

  • Customer injuries. If someone other than you (the policyholder) gets injured where you’re doing business (the market), general liability coverage can pay the associated costs.
  • Damage to other people’s property. If you accidentally damage someone’s property (for example, by spilling coffee all over a high-end leather purse), general liability insurance can help pay to repair or replace that person’s property.

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General liability insurance is usually affordable, too. A typical small business can expect to pay between $36 and $62 per month for $2 million in coverage. And that coverage is good for an entire year. In fact, it may be more cost effective to get coverage for a year than to buy multiple single-day policies, particularly if you plan on working events over the next 12 months.

How Insurance Applies to Your Artwork, Supplies, & Gear

General liability insurance protects you and the fair organizers when things go wrong for other people. But what if things go wrong for you?

Let’s start with your art. Unfortunately, most insurance companies are reluctant to write policies that cover works of art, mostly because it’s so hard to determine a piece’s value. So if your artwork is destroyed in a fire or is stolen, you may be out of luck. The one exception? If another artist at the fair damages your art and they have liability coverage, you should be able to recoup your losses through their policy.

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Now let’s say you travel to fairs with supplies or equipment. You may want to invest in insurance that can pay to repair or replace that gear if it’s damaged or stolen. Standard commercial property insurance probably won’t do the trick because it’s usually tied to a specific location. So even if your gear is insured at your workshop, that coverage may not travel with you.

But inland marine insurance can. It’s a special type of property coverage that protects equipment and goods wherever they go. So if your camera is stolen at an art fair, this policy can help pay for its replacement.

Another example: say you’re driving to an open-air market with your gear. If you get into a collision that destroys your laptop and camera, inland marine coverage can help pay for repairs and replacements. That’s worth noting because many auto insurance policies won’t cover damage to items in your car, even if it’s caused by an auto collision.

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Final Takeaways

Here’s your open-air art market insurance checklist:

  • If market organizers require you to have liability protection, you’ll usually need general liability insurance.
  • If you want to protect your gear no matter where it is, look into an inland marine insurance policy.
  • Don’t count on your property insurance or auto insurance to protect your art equipment in transit.

And keep in mind that your policies usually won’t cover your art, so be extra careful when transporting and displaying your work.

What are YOUR insurance experiences? Tell us below or join my Embrace Creatives FB group and share.

To your creative success,

Andrea Rosenfeld


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