The Art of Mediation

Jan 21, 2022
Do you like art? If you would say that you are interested in art and enjoy going to art galleries, you should talk to Roos Jansen. You will soon realize that you don’t know that much about art after all. Roos Jansen knows plenty about art – a great deal, in fact. She is a claims expert for works of art and other luxury goods for DEKRA Claims & Expertise in the Netherlands. The 39-year-old Dutch woman talks about artists as if they were part of her rather perfect family of four – and some-how they are. Roos Jansen lives with her husband and their two sons on Noor-dereiland in Rotterdam, surrounded by water. It only takes a few minutes to get to the city center via the bridge. Early in the morning, it is still quiet in the second-largest city in the Netherlands. The sun has just risen behind Rotterdam’s famous skyline. Roos gets the children ready, takes them to day care and makes her way to the small town of Leiden, about three-quarters of an hour’s drive from Rotterdam. The Museum De Lakenhal is surrounded by narrow brick houses and pictur-esque canals. This is where Roos has an appointment with Oskar Brandenburg, Head of Programs and Collections at the museum. They met here for the first time two years ago, in March 2018, just after disaster had struck.

Water Damage in the Museum

During renovation work on the municipal art museum, a burst pipe had flooded two floors. “The paintings had of course already been removed before the renovation started,” says Oskar Brandenburg. All but one: the painting set into the ceiling on the ground floor, the work of the Dutch painter Anthony Elliger – The Abduction of Ganymede with the Gods of Olympus (dated 1739). The mythological depiction of Jupiter, in the form of an eagle, abducting the beautiful Ganymede and taking him to Mount Olympus was added to the museum’s collection in the 1920s and has adorned the stucco ceiling in one of the museum’s rooms for around 100 years. “The water had been running for a day and a half before the site manager discovered the leak after the weekend.” The cold weather was to blame, as the contractor had failed to heat the upper floors. The water in a pipe froze and the pipe burst. “There was extensive damage to the painting,” says Roos Jansen. “The water caused the canvas to become wavy, creating bulges and tears.” The painting was taken down and given emergency treatment – firstly with special Japanese paper that absorbs a lot of water, and then with diapers. “It looked pretty funny, with diapers everywhere. But as I know from being a mother, they really do work best,” laughs Roos Jansen. You have to be very careful with water damage; hot air makes the paintings brittle and only causes more damage. Roos Jansen was commissioned by the museum’s insurance company to assess the damage and assist with the restoration process. “As a claims expert, you are right in the thick of it. There are many different parties involved with different interests.” In the case of the ceiling painting, these were the museum people, the restorers, and the in-surance company. “You have to translate – the insurance experts hardly know anything about art. And the museum staff know very little about insurance. As for the restorers, they are only interested in the artwork itself, of course.”
„Durch das Wasser wellte sich die Leinwand, hatte große Beulen und Risse.“ „Ganymedes“ wurde abgenommen und notbehandelt: zunächst mit einem speziellen japanischen Papier, das viel Wasser aufnimmt, und, ja, Windeln. „Das sah sehr komisch aus, Windeln überall. Aber ich weiß es von meinen Kindern: Das wirkt am besten“, lacht Roos Jansen. Denn bei Wasserschäden muss man sehr vorsichtig sein, heiße Luft macht die Gemälde brüchig und richtet nur noch mehr Schaden an. Roos Jansen wurde von der Versicherung des Museums beauftragt, den Schaden zu begutachten und den Restaurierungsprozess zu begleiten. „Als Schadenexpertin bist du mittendrin. Es sind viele unterschiedliche Parteien mit verschiedenen Interessen beteiligt.“ Im Falle des Deckengemäldes waren es die Museumsleute, die Restaurateure und die Versicherungen. „Du musst übersetzen. Die Schadenexper-ten der Versicherungen wissen kaum etwas über Kunst. Und die Museumsleute wissen wenig über Versicherungen. Und den Restaurateuren, denen geht es natürlich nur um das Kunstwerk selbst.“

As a claims expert, you are right in the thick of it. There are many different parties involved with different interests.

Roos Jansen
Roos Jansen brings it all together. Her task is to find the best possible solution for all parties involved. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You have to try to put the different parts together until you get a coherent picture for everyone.” Her knowledge is essential for cases like that in Leiden. There are only seven claims experts for art in the whole country. Roos Jansen and her colleague Laura De Jongh, who has been working for DEKRA Claims & Expertise since April this year, are two of them. Even within their DEKRA business unit, they are somewhat exotic. The 30-strong team otherwise deals with the settlement of claims after fires, for ship transportation, and real estate. “The art sector itself is rather conservative. It’s nice to get some color in there,” says Roos Jansen. She has long brown hair, is tall, sporty, always on the move, friendly and communicative, and very charming – you can just tell that she is a people person. Nevertheless, she is quite resolute and clear in her statements. She has to be, because she can’t always bring good news or make all parties equally happy.

The Value of Art

In order to assess claims and quantify the value of works of art, a great deal of knowledge and experience is required. Before joining DEKRA in June 2013, Roos Jansen worked for nine years at a Dutch valuation company, where she specialized in the valuation of paintings, antiques, and other valuables. “During that time, I had between 100 and 300 objets d’art pass through my hands each week. I saw, researched, and evaluated so much. You get a feeling for the value of certain objects and materials.” Many different factors are decisive for valuation, such as size, condition, age, and rarity – but also the question of who has already owned the work of art. “Most important is the artist himself or herself. Names and reputations are everything in the art world.” And then, of course, having the right contacts also helps. And Roos Jansen has those thanks to her many years of experience in the industry. “Everybody knows everybody.”

You can be part of the process to preserve a piece of art history.

Roos Jansen
The problem with claims settlement is that when Roos Jansen gets involved, the works of art are always damaged. “It can be heartbreaking, because some things are beyond repair. But if something can be fixed, it feels amazing – you can be part of the process to preserve a piece of art history.” Things went well in Leiden. Two months before the reopening of Museum De Lakenhal, the painting was back on the ceiling. In the end, the restoration costs amounted to around 130,000 euros. The estimated value of the painting – in normal condition – was around one million euros. Oskar Brandenburg and Roos Jansen are satisfied with the results of their joint work. But Roos Jansen has to go now, as her expertise is required elsewhere: two art deco chairs have been damaged in a fire.