ARTnewsletter Archive

Momart Sued by Several Artists, Collectors Over Fire

A group of artists, collectors and insurers are suing Momart, one of the world’s leading specialists in the storage and transport of fine art, in the wake of a warehouse fire in London in May 2004 (see ANL, 6/8/04) that destroyed an estimated $30 million worth of art.

NEW YORK—A group of artists, collectors and insurers are suing Momart, one of the world’s leading specialists in the storage and transport of fine art, in the wake of a warehouse fire in London in May 2004 (see ANL, 6/8/04) that destroyed an estimated $30 million worth of art.

Among the claimants are the artists Gillian Ayres, Barry Flanagan and Damien Hirst, the daughters of the late artist Patrick Heron, the widower of artist Helen Chadwick, author and collector Shirley Conran and the Royal Academy of London, all of whom lost significant works in the fire, says Jonathan Wood, a partner in legal firm Clyde & Co.

Wood told ARTnewsletter the firm is handling two significant suits against Momart. The largest is one that represents 30 claimants in total. The value of the claim on the suits is about £15 million ($27 million).

“Our case is that the premises were wholly unsuitable as a storage location for high-value fine art. For example, the premises were located amongst other units where there was a high risk of fire; the building itself was not constructed so as to prevent the rapid spread of fire; coupled with this was the inadequate security and fire-detection provisions. In short, a disaster waiting to happen,” states Wood.

Asked to comment on the matter, Momart had not responded by the time ARTnewsletter went to press. Reportedly further claims have been filed by Axa Art Insurance, Victoria Miro, Anthony d’Offay, Sadie Coles, and others.

Among the works destroyed in the fire: Hell, 2000, a 28-foot sculpture by Jake and Dinos Chapman, for which collector Charles Saatchi reportedly paid the artists £500,000 ($750,000); and Tracey Emin’s embroidered tent Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, purchased in 1996 by Saatchi for inclusion in the “Sensation” exhibition for £40,000 ($62,000). Other artists with works in the warehouse were sculptor Bill Woodrow and Rachel Whiteread.

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