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A conversation with Anne-Claire Bisch

episode 19
Feb 04 2021

Anne-Claire Bisch, the general director of the Geneva Free Ports and Warehouses Limited, shares a glimpse into the world of storing and securing high-value art

About our guest

Anne-Claire Bisch is an art historian, lawyer, and the first woman to be General Director of the Geneva Freeports and Warehouses of Geneva. She has worked as an art insurance expert for more than 20 years, beginning as a specialised underwriter for the Lloyds in Germany, France, Monaco, and Switzerland, before launching her own art and high value special risks insurance broker company in Geneva. She teaches at the Geneva University, Zurich University, Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers and Ecole Nationale d’Assurance in Paris, and several conferences. She has authored two books, “Une question de goût : la Collection Zoubov” (2013), and “Portraits de galerie” (2017). She is the mother of a six year old daughter, and firmly believes that women in the art world can do more than what they imagine!

Geneva Free Ports and Warehouses Limited

More information

Responsible Art Market Initiative

“If you want to have a safe and healthy market, you have to be more transparent”

“Fear is the
biggest enemy”

“Portraits de galerie”, published by Editions L&L

“Open your mind, open your heart, and always be curious”

I am so glad to welcome Anne-Claire Bisch to the show today. She has a fascinating background as an art historian, an art insurance expert, author, and a lawyer. She founded Artssurance in 2014, which is an insurance company specializing in artwork and valuable objects, and recently became the general director for the Geneva Free Ports and Warehouses Limited.

Geneva Freeport is the oldest and largest freeport facility in Geneva, Switzerland, and is sometimes called the biggest museum in the world.

“The Geneva Freeport... it’s a very special place in the art business,” says Anne-Claire. “Behind the door there are some people, and there are some very high value objects... Some artworks, some articles, some contemporary pieces, but also some wines. Many people forget that we have approximately three millions of bottles of wine.”

Challenges in the art market

Despite its long and venerable history, this is the first time the Geneva Freeport has had a woman as a general director.

“It’s in the spirit of the time today, but it’s also very challenging for us, I mean for me and for my team. Most of the clients in the art market are still in a man's world ... It was not easy for them on the first day of the first week, to have a boss with some high heels,” she laughs.

Anne-Claire also thinks that there needs to be more transparency in the art market when it comes to the provenance of various artworks, the clients, and the prices artwork can command.

“I think it’s for good reasons,” she says. “But you also have to be very careful for the discretion and for the confidentiality because you can have a very open-minded business, but don’t forget that artworks are not everyday life objects.”

Artwork becomes a very intimate object for people, she says. And further, some artwork commands very high prices. Although sharing the value of those works would be good for market transparency, it could also encourage bad actors to target artwork owners.

Being a woman in the art market

Anne-Claire says that her experience as a professional woman in the art market has been challenging, but that the conditions and attitudes have slowly improved.

“I would say that when I began twenty years ago, it was more difficult than today,” she says.

However, as a mother, Anne-Claire is also determined to show her daughter that it is possible to be a mother and a successful entrepreneur and professional.

“What drives me to try to be the best in both jobs is that, you spoke about women in art, and woman in job, and for me it’s important to ... show her that it’s possible,” she says. “You just have to open your mind, open your heart, and always be curious.”

As a final thought, Anne-Claire offers that women in the arts should try to let go of being afraid, and that being curious is key to finding success.

“They don’t have to be fearful about what people think of them, and about what the society thinks of them,” she says. “Fear is the biggest enemy.”


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