Momart is a British company specialising in the storage, transportation, and installation of works of art. 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 important works by Young British Artists such as Tracey Emin.

The 2004 warehouse fire

In the evening of 24 May 2004 fire broke out in a Momart storage warehouse in Leyton, East London.

The warehouse was in the center of a large industrial building that also housed 33 other businesses, such as auto repair shops, around the periphery. Several of the other tenants used acetylene, oxygen, or propane gas cylinders.

The central warehouse was sublet from a household moving company and had been originally used by Momart to store empty crates for artwork that was on exhibit in galleries and museums. At some point, the company began storing the artwork itself in the unguarded, unalarmed, non-temperature-controlled warehouse. Arson investigators determined that burglars started the fire in an attempt to cover up the theft of consumer electronics from one of the other businesses in the building.

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, over a hundred 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 reticent; Tracey Emin admitted "I'm upset, but I'm also upset about those whose wedding got bombed [in Iraq, on May 19], and people being dug out from mud in the Dominican Republic."

Other collectors who lost art treasures included the author, Shirley Conran and the artist, Gillian Ayres.

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. One art insurance specialist valued the lost work at £50m.

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

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

See also

Notes and references

External links

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