Extensive damage was caused when the fully plumbed piece of art was ripped from the wall causing escape of water damage to the palace 

Loss adjuster, Crawford & Company has been appointed to handle the buildings and business interruption claim arising from the theft of the £4.8m gold toilet from Blenheim Palace.

The 18-carat toilet called “America” was a piece of art by Maurizio Cattelan. It was open to the public for two days before it was swiped in a raid on Saturday 14 September.

Reuters confirmed that the thieves had caused ”extensive flooding” in the building. 

Crawford & Co explained further that the piece of art was fully plumbed in and its theft has therefore caused escape of water damage to the palace.

Head of private clients, Richard Wakeham at Crawford & Co, told Insurance Times: “Whilst Crawford is not appointed on the art, I would suspect that the metal will have been melted down quickly after the theft. This a reflection of rising bullion prices over the last six months that currently stands at £1,208 per ounce. This is at a modern day high for the metal which was trading around a figure of £229 in May 2005.”

Weight in gold

Head of art and private clients at Hiscox – Robert Read told Insurance Times: “It’s a well-known work of art, and it’s been exhibited before. It’s theft, so it will be covered, most fine art policies in the market won’t have any restrictions about it.”

He said that it is likely that the thieves would melt the gold toilet down: “There’s no way that they can sell this on the open market as a work of art because it’s pretty unique and everyone knows about it. It’s worthless to them as a work of art but valuable to them as gold however they still have to process it and that’s going to be quite tricky.

“We know that its 125kg of 18-carat gold and we know that it’s roughly $50,000 a kilogram for gold at the moment. That alone will be four and half million dollars for the gold alone,” Read added.

Specific conditions

While the firm that will be handling the art, claim is yet to be revealed, Kelly Murray, claims manager at Azur Underwriting, commented on the theft.

Murray told Insurance Times: “This is a very unusual example, but it’s perfect for demonstrating the importance of speaking to a specialist adviser when it comes to insuring unique or high-value items.

“It is hard to say if the toilet would be covered without reading the actual policy but as long as any specific conditions were adhered to and the gold toilet was insured to value then the policy should respond.”

Managing digital agency – Azur provides insurance for private collections in the form of fine art.

Read added that if the security at the palace was lax, it might count as an exclusion in the policy.

A very different type of risk

In terms of what insurers can learn from this incident, Read said: “When you get an art risk that has a high intrinsic value irrespective of its artistic value like this one it has to be treated as a completely different risk and it also has to be protected as a big jewellery risk or a bullion risk.”

He also gave the example of a skull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds by artist Damien Hirst.

Read added that due to the substantial weight of the toilet being 125kg, the theft would have taken some planning and at least two to three people to remove it.