A singular event with catastrophic potential is bearing down on South Florida where it poses a unique threat to one of the world’s significant concentrations of high-value real estate and art. What are collectors doing to safeguard their art?
Katya Kazakina tells us that Len Blavatnik’s Damien Hirst sitting outside at the Faena development has workers around it who are there to:
fortify the four layers of bullet-proof glass encasing a gilded, 24-karat mammoth skeleton sculpture that cost a cool $17 million. [T]he life-size Damien Hirst work [is] now sheathed in a protective cocoon of materials including steel pylons
Beyond that, we learn very little about the preparations taking place in around the rest of Miami and up North in Palm Beach.
At the Invaluable Auction House Summit in Boston, Thomas Burns from Fortress Fine Art Storage and Simon Hornby of Crozier both addressed the problems with hurricane preparedness in South Florida’s Gold Coast.
Burns says his teams have been working all week to move their clients art into Fortress’s facility and prepare the building for an unprecedented blow. “Starting Tuesday we were inundated with clients who were completely unprepared,” Burns said. It turns out major works are in place without insurance and the insurance companies have placed a moratorium on new insurance in the area this week.
Fortress has a program that allows collectors to put their works in storage in June when they leave the area. The big question is how many have had their works moved back to the beach houses so early in the season.
Hornby pointed to the fact that art insurance carriers were slow to engage these kind of hurricane preparedness programs waiting until this Tuesday to call for logistical support. By then, it was already too late to add capacity amid the jammed traffic and fuel shortages caused by the massive evacuation taking place.
What the consequences will be obviously remains to be seen. But for all the stories of multi-million-dollar works stranded in Florida homes due to lack of advanced planning, there’s a far greater risk of work that is not-yet-viewed as truly valuable being at risk during this storm. The owners may not have the means to pay for emergency storage. Works my get overlooked in the race to evacuate. Homes where the art is hanging may lack the materials and construction quality to withstand the onslaught.
Then there’s the impact on Miami’s hospitality industry. South Beach already has a flooding problem at high tide. A five-to-ten foot storm surge is sure to damage most hotels that house visitors to ArtBasel in December. Will those hotels be able to find workers to make the necessary repairs in time? Will insurance settlements hold up the process and take capacity offline? That doesn’t seem likely.