A major proportion of their business is maintaining (often delicate) artworks in a secure, climate-controlled environment. The company maintains two warehouse facilities adapted for this task. Momart's clients include the Saatchi Gallery, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain and Buckingham Palace. The company received considerable media attention in 2004 when a fire spread to one of their warehouses from an adjacent unit, destroying the works in it, including works by Young British Artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, with the most well known work lost being Emin's 1995 piece Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995.
The 2004 warehouse fire
In the evening of 24 May 2004 a fire broke out in a Momart storage warehouse in Leyton, east London.
The warehouse was in the centre of a large industrial building that also housed other businesses around the periphery. The central warehouse was sublet from a household moving company.
The blaze, which continued to smoulder for nearly a day, destroyed almost all of the artworks stored within. As well as works from other collections, items from the Saatchi collection of so-called Britart were lost. Charles Saatchi later commented "Many of these pieces are great personal favourites and irreplaceable in British Art." Some of the artists themselves were, however, more philosophical; Tracey Emin said, "I'm upset, but I'm also upset about those whose wedding got bombed [in Iraq, on 19 May], and people being dug out from mud in the Dominican Republic."
Art industry insiders noted that the insurance value of the works lost in the fire, particularly the "Britart" works in Saatchi's collection, would be many times their initial purchase price, and that a comparable rise could be expected in the market values of the remaining (and future) works by artists whose works were lost. The artworks lost were valued at between £30 and £50 million.
Uri Geller visited the site "with a shovel and a roll of garden bin-liners" to salve the remains. Entitled "RIP YBA" the remains were housed in perspex containers as a memorial by the contemporary artist Stuart Semple, as a commission by Geller. The work was subsequently offered to the Tate after several bids were rejected, creating a legal debate concerning the ownership of the remains from the fire.
Christopher Redgrave, son of William Redgrave, whose major sculpture The Event was in the fire, visited twice and manage to retrieve over 30 out of 228 bronze figures, though cutting his hands badly in the process. He described the scene:
|“||There was a smell of rotting food, rotting chips, rotting meat from one of the units Momart shared the building with ... There were bits of glass hanging from the roof. I had to climb over steel girders. It looked like a twisted rollercoaster that had crashed.||”|
As far as is known he is the only person out of the artists or artists' relatives to have been to the site; he said, "this building was inappropriate for what they are doing. There's no way around that."
At Christmas, 2004, Momart commissioned the Chapman Brothers to design their Christmas corporate gift. They produced a spoof Momart zippo lighter. Dinos Chapman commented:
We didn't have to think very hard. Our work burns, the company comes to us: there's a trajectory. What else could we do, but come up with the idea of a Zippo lighter with the word Momart on it?.
Works known lost in fire
- Patrick Caulfield — Hedone's
- Helen Chadwick — Cyclops Cameo', Opal and eight other works
- Jake and Dinos Chapman — Hell
- Michael Craig-Martin — Mood Change One
- Dexter Dalwood — Che Guevara's Mountain Hideaway
- Tracey Emin
- Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 (1995)
- The Last Thing I Said Is Don't Leave Me Here (The Hut) (1999)
- Patrick Heron — 50 works
- Damien Hirst — several paintings, unknown other works in addition to works by other artists, owned by Hirst
- Craigie Horsfield — Carrer Muntaner, Barcelona
- Gary Hume — Dolphin Painting No1
- Sarah Lucas — Down Below
- Martin Maloney — Sony Levi and at least 19 other works
- Tim Noble and Sue Webster — Miss Understood and Mr Meanor
- Chris Ofili — Afrobluff
- Richard Patterson — Motocrosser II
- William Redgrave — The Event
- Gavin Turk — Floater
- Rachel Whiteread — unknown
Momart Christmas card series
Since 1984 they have commissioned a well-known contemporary British artist to create a limited edition Christmas card which was given to their major clients. The artists represented in past Christmas cards are:
- 1984 — Bruce McLean
- 1985 — Richard Wentworth
- 1986 — David Inshaw
- 1987 — Tim Head
- 1988 — Gillian Ayres
- 1989 — Barry Flanagan
- 1990 — Bill Woodrow
- 1991 — Eduardo Paolozzi
- 1992 — Helen Chadwick
- 1993 — Anthony Caro
- 1994 — Paula Rego
- 1995 — Peter Blake
- 1996 — Richard Deacon
- 1997 — Damien Hirst
- 1998 — Langlands & Bell
- 1999 — Tracey Emin
- 2000 — Gary Hume
- 2001 — Mark Wallinger
- 2002 — Howard Hodgkin
- 2003 — Lucian Freud
- 2004 — Paul McDevitt
- 2005 — David Hockney
- 2006 — Ron Mueck
- 2007 — Sarah Lucas
- 2008 — Richard Hughes
- 2009 — Catherine Yass
- 2010 — Joel Peers & Toby Ziegler
Notes and references
- Buck, Louisa (2004). Art Newspaper "Bending The Momart Wreckage, Art Newspaper, September 2004. Accessed 23 February 2008.
- Meek, James 2004 "Art into Ashes" The Guardian, 23 September 2004. Accessed 15 April 2006
- Momart website
- New art rises from wreckage of warehouse (Telegraph)
- BBC story on warehouse fire
- Warehouse was burgled before fire (BBC story)
- Why so many significant pieces of art were put at risk. (Guardian story)
- Spoof Momart Zippo is hottest present of year (Guardian story)
- William Regrave triptych and salvaged head