AFTER SOMEONE ACCIDENTALLY DROPPED JEFF Koons’s Red Balloon Dog in 2008, the fractured porcelain sculpture was considered damaged beyond repair. Similar works by Koons have been valued at tens of thousands of dollars, but after an art insurer ran a total-loss claim on the piece, Red Balloon Dog was, legally, worth nothing at all.

Koons’s broken sculpture is, however, worth something to Polish artist Elka Krajewska, founder of the Salvage Art Institute, which actively collects pieces that have been declared a total loss, and promotes conversations around them. Red Balloon Dog is now part of a rotating inventory of damaged artwork given new life in Krajewska’s traveling exhibition.

In many ways, art insurance is a lot like car insurance. When the cost to fix a damaged piece (or car) exceeds its perceived worth, or the damage is considered too extensive, the work goes through a total-loss claim. The value of the piece officially becomes zero, and it’s declared “salvage art” by insurers. Some of these salvage works end up on the walls of art insurance offices the world over, but more often they’re stored in warehouses, in a kind of limbo while the insurer figures out if they can be auctioned to make up for some of the paid-out claim. Read more