For as long as there have been art collectors, there has been the need to store art. These days, a crop of storage companies has arisen to meet that demand, and one of them is Uovo, which stands apart not only for its state-of-the-art facilities and its rapid growth, but also its expansion into the art lending and fashion worlds.
Founded by the collector and real estate executive Steve Guttman in 2014 as a 280,000-square-foot art storage facility in Long Island City, Uovo now has 12 facilities across the United States. According to Uovo’s new chief executive, John Auerbach, there is only growth ahead.
Uovo, named after the Italian word for egg, has made its name by being the first facility in New York that was build specially for art storage. Its first facility, built in Long Island City after Hurricane Sandy damaged hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of art in New York City, is over twice the FEMA-recommended height above sea level to avoid flooding and has an eight-inch seismic gap on the off-chance that an earthquake hits the city.
Perhaps more so than other art storage companies, Uovo has made a habit of linking up with art organizations and events, striking up partnerships with the FOG Art + Design Fair in San Francisco and Artadia, with whom it runs a tournament during Frieze Los Angeles. It also facilitates a $25,000 artist prize, with its past winners including Oscar yi Hou and Baseera Khan. Leadership at Uovo hope that efforts such as these will make it more than just another art storage company.
Recently, ARTnews had a conversation with Auerbach about Uovo’s facilities, its expansion, and its plans for the future.
ARTnews: Uovo was founded to provide a specialized kind of storage for fine art. How is Uovo different from other fine art storage companies?
John Auerbach: Uovo was founded by collectors who have a passion for art and a deep understanding of storage environments. This dedication comes through when you visit any of our state-of-the-art facilities. In practice, this means that we invest heavily in our people, facilities, and technology in order to provide a best-in-class experience for our clients.
When hiring, we look to build a diverse team with people who have a proven interest in the arts and a broad range of experience in art, fashion, culture, and logistics. In doing so, across the board at Uovo we have a genuine respect for and knowledge of the works we handle on a daily basis.
Our facilities are rigorously monitored to maintain optimal climate conditions at all times, even in rare cases of power outages thanks to on-site backup generators. We are always making improvements to our facilities and technology to provide our clients with superior storage solutions for their collections.
You were recently named Uovo’s chief executive. What brought you to the company?
I have always been interested in businesses that set a new standard for their industry and look for innovative ways to embrace and leverage technology. The passionate team at Uovo has a deep appreciation and understanding of the works entrusted to their care and they have led the charge in providing digital solutions for clients. The company has established a well-respected brand that has room for expansion and from a business perspective, private ownership enables us to be nimble and move quickly. As a collector myself, who has experience in the fashion industry, Uovo provided me with a unique professional opportunity.
Oscar yi Hou was awarded the Uovo Prize last year. That was the third time the award was given out. How did the prize originate, and how do you decide the winners?
The Uovo Prize was established in partnership with the Brooklyn Museum in 2019. It grew out of a desire to give back to the Brooklyn community and to support local artists. A Brooklyn Museum committee chooses the winning artist based on submitted applications each year. Our only criteria are that the artist be Brooklyn-based and emerging in their career. The museum does an excellent job prioritizing artists who are historically underrepresented in institutions and reflect the diverse makeup of our borough.
You cater to more than just collectors—you offer storage for museums, art advisors, galleries and even storage for fashion. In what ways do your services for clients differ?
Uovo offers end-to-end service across a number of collecting categories including fine art, collectibles and fashion, all with a strong emphasis on the client experience. Our services are wide-ranging from storage to setting up private viewings in our viewing rooms, installation, condition reporting, and transportation. We pride ourselves on the level of care and expertise on the objects we handle.
Uovo Fashion is a key area of expansion for us. We recently acquired Garde Robe, a luxury wardrobe management and concierge service, that will provide an opportunity to engage further with major fashion brands and collectors alike by providing high-quality storage and an archival system for important couture collections, luxury garments and accessories. We already serve a number of key institutional clients, including Oscar de la Renta and the American Apparel company PVH, and will continue to foster relationships with major fashion houses in 2023. The fashion customer also has a lot of crossover with our existing art and collectible customer base, so it makes a lot of sense for Uovo.
You recently launched Uovo Art Finance. How was the initiative conceived?
The goal of Uovo Art Finance is to expand the suite of services we are able to provide to our clients, allowing them to maximize the value of fine art collections while they are stored in our facilities. Given that banks and specialty lenders generally require that collateral be placed in secure storage for the duration of a loan, we felt it was a vertical into which we could easily expand and provide a meaningful benefit to our clients. We have partnered with a bank to provide the capital for the loans as well as to conduct all necessary diligence.
You have recently expanded to Aspen and Miami. How many Uovo facilities are there and what are your plans for future expansion?
We are excited to continue expanding our geographic presence in the U.S. Uovo is soon to have 13 facilities nationwide with the opening of our Dallas location in 2023 and our second West Palm Beach location this Fall. We currently have four locations in New York State, two in Florida, California and Colorado, and one in Delaware. As for other areas of growth, you can expect us to continue to expand geographically in markets where our collectors are and want us to be.