NEW YORK—On March 16 a British high court judge ruled that a fine-art storage company in London owed a Swiss collector £351,375 ($685,248) for a 1984 sculpture by Anish Kapoor that the company had mistakenly left out for a trash collector in 2004.
No appeal is planned by the storage company, Fine Art Logistics, says deputy chairman Jonathan Wood. However, he told ARTnewsletter, “our insurance company [Lloyd’s of London] may bring an appeal—I don’t know that.”
At the trial the owner of the work, Geneva-based collector Ofir Scheps—claimed the piece would have brought £580,000 at auction, while an expert for the storage company set its value at £250,000. But Justice Nigel Teare, who had assigned the work a value of £132,000 at the time it was lost, added £219,375 as its increased value since then—for a total of £351,375.
“The experts agreed that between 2004 and 2006, the prices for Kapoor’s sculptures increased between two and three times,” Teare ruled, basing his decision on price increases of other works by the artist at auction.
The 10-foot-tall sculpture, Hole and Vessel II, 1984, made of polystyrene, cement, earth, acrylic and pigment, had been purchased from a private collector by Scheps for a reported £35,000 in 2004, preempting a scheduled auction at Christie’s. Scheps then placed the sculpture at Fine Art Logistics, planning to leave it there until Kapoor could undertake restoration.
Sculpture ‘Skips’ Out
Wood told ARTnewsletter that at the time of the sculpture’s disappearance in 2004, Fine Art Logistics was renovating a four-building complex to create additional storage space. During this process, he explained, many crates were moved around, with some put into “skips,” or Dumpsters. Workers were instructed to check all the crates to make sure they were empty, he said, “but I believe some were careless. The Kapoor sculpture was never taken out of its sealed packing crate, and it seems that it was forklifted out.”
The incident is one of several such mishaps in recent years involving damage to or destruction of works placed under the care of fine-art storage companies. In 2004 a fire at Momart’s east London warehouse destroyed hundreds of works by such artists as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Chris Ofili (ANL, 6/8/04, pp. 2-3). Many of the destroyed works were from the collection of Charles Saatchi. Another fire, at the Artex warehouse in Dedham, Mass., in 2005, destroyed or damaged many pieces.
Spokespersons for the principal art dealers representing Kapoor—Barbara Gladstone, New York City, and the Lisson Gallery, London—report that the Hole and Vessel II mishap has had no effect on prices for the artist’s work or interest in it.