Insurance Cost For International Art Exhibit Skyrocketing

Insurance costs for Mississippi's 2004 German art exhibit could eclipse rates for the state's past three showcases of the European treasurers. The rate quoted for the exhibition of Baroque works from the 17th and 18th centuries is four times the rate of last year's "Majesty of Spain'' exhibition, Jack Kyle said Tuesday.

Kyle has brought the past exhibitions to the state in his job as executive director of the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange.

"One of the difficulties we're having right now is that after Sept. 11... insurance rates have quadrupled,'' Kyle said in an interview with The Associated Press staff. "I hope this will quiet down some by the time 2004 gets here.''

He would not discuss the value of the pieces or how much insurance might cost. Kyle said "The Glory of Baroque Dresden'' has a budget of $8.5 million to $9.5 million, with $1 million in flux for insurance and other costs. He said the main concerns about protecting the art are theft or natural disasters.

While insurance is much higher, Kyle said one less troublesome aspect of organizing the exhibition is transportation of the paintings, porcelain pieces and other objects. German airline Lufthansa flies directly into Atlanta, about a six-hour drive from Jackson. In the past, artwork has had to be transported from as far away as Chicago, at least a 12-hour drive.

The Dresden exhibition will be the fourth of its kind in Mississippi. The most recent showcase of European art, the "Majesty of Spain,'' attracted about 320,000 visitors, making $85,000 less than it needed to break even. More than a third of the visitors were school-aged children, who pay $3 for tickets. Adult tickets are $15. Kyle has said the German exhibit could attract 500,000.

The state has already committed $1 million to the Dresden project and Kyle said he'll ask lawmakers for another $2 million. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, said in a separate interview that the international art exhibitions are good for Mississippi because they boost the state's economy.

"I think they've been very worthwhile,'' Gordon said Tuesday. "They bring a lot of people in. None has been as successful so far as the 'Palaces of St. Petersburg.'''

"Palaces of St. Petersburg: Russian Imperial Style,'' the first of Mississippi's international exhibitions, attracted 554,000 visitors in 1996. What's more important than how these exhibits perform, Kyle said, is the educational and cultural impact they have on people, particularly Mississippians.

"You take back to your own community an experience that has enriched you individually,'' Kyle said.

He said he expects the Dresden exhibit to be the largest so far, including the "Majesty of Spain,'' which attracted the king and queen of Spain. He said the Dresden show will be the first of Mississippi's European exhibits to feature work of the old masters.

The exhibit will feature about 22 paintings by Rembrandt, Peter Paul Reubens and others. Kyle is also working to acquire one of Dresden's two paintings by 17th Century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

The exhibition will feature, in five galleries, the Zwinger collection of porcelain, one of the largest collections of Chinese and Japanese porcelain in the world.

About 300 pieces from Dresden will be showcased in Mississippi, the most noted of which is a 41-carat Dresden Green Diamond, the world's largest natural green diamond.