Italian insurer Generali seeks art market leadership

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MILAN (AP) — Italian insurer Generali launched a new business Tuesday to cover art works, engaging as a poster boy the contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan, whose gold-covered statute valued at 2.4 million euros ($2.6 million) was stolen last year from an English castle.

Cattelan declined to discuss the theft of the sculpture titled "America," but he did appear on promotional material for the new business, Arte Generali, with only a copy of the original gold-covered toilet for cover.

Generali CEO Philippe Donnet wants to take on his former company, AXA, which is the leader in the art market, leveraging on Italian art expertise and Generali's history of engaging with art and culture.

"To be fully transparent, when I joined Generali Italia six years ago as the regional manager for Italy, I was very surprised we were not doing this kind of business in Italy," Donnet said. "I didn't know I would have the opportunity as group CEO, but I think it is absolutely necessary for Generali to enter this business."

Generali is aiming 50 million euros ($55 million) in revenues in five years in a sector that is forecast to grow $2.3 billion in 2022, from $1.7 billion five years earlier. The global art value in the period is forecast to grow by 20% to $4.3 trillion.

The head of the new division, Jean Gazancon, said Generali aims to be a "partner for life" for art collectors, going beyond insurance to offer digital platforms for appraisals from experts as well as solutions for storage, transport and restoration. Beyond art, it will also deal with valuable collectibles, high-end musical instruments and jewelry for a value of up to 150 million euros ($164 million).

The business will launch first in Europe, where the Generali name is known, before expanding to Dubai in the Middle East.

"We want to become the leader in this world," Donnet said.

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