WSJ: Builder is Bullish

May 10, 2013

The Wall Street Journal: Builder Is Bullish on New York City’s Fine-Art Storage Market

A real-estate developer who collects contemporary art is building a new fine-art storage facility in Queens to rival spaces such as Christie’s Brooklyn storage facility, where art was damaged by flooding during superstorm Sandy.

Steven Guttman, a former chairman and CEO of Federal Realty Investment Trust, in January launched Uovo Fine Art Storage, which plans to open a 280,000-square-foot high-tech storage facility in Long Island City, Queens, in 2014.

The Uovo project, which will comprise two adjacent buildings on 22nd Street near Queens Plaza in Long Island City, underscores the continued strength of the contemporary-art market and the growing need for secure, climate-controlled storage space as more and more art is created, purchased by collectors and acquired by museums.

Christie’s spokeswoman Melissa Abernathy said demand for space at the auction company’s art-storage facility in Red Hook, Brooklyn, has continued to grow, even after the artwork of “a handful of clients” was damaged when the storm surge flooded the building’s first floor. She declined to provide further details on the extent of the flooding and the damage, but said the company is “constantly reviewing” all its storage spaces with an eye toward improving the security and safety of the works inside.

The facility is managed by Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Christie’s with other spaces in London and Singapore.

Uovo officials called theirs the first custom-built fine-art-storage facility in New York. Other art-storage spaces, including the Christie’s facility in Brooklyn, occupy older buildings retrofitted for the purpose.

Crozier, another major player in the art-storage business, runs spaces in Chelsea, Newark, Philadelphia and Southampton. That company’s New York office did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Guttman on Thursday began pitching his new space—which is being built more than 16 feet above sea level, well above the projected level of a 100-year flood, the company said—to art collectors gathered at the VIP preview of the Frieze New York art fair on Randall’s Island.

He said his foray into art storage began about seven years ago, when he and his wife were in Paris collecting contemporary art and mid-century furniture for their Greenwich Village apartment. He then began to explore storage and shipping options.

Space was hard to find, he said. And the available facilities, he said, made him nervous.

“I go and look at the space, and they’re all old buildings,” he said. “As a real-estate developer, I said, ‘Boy, this is interesting.'”

Mr. Guttman, who runs a self-storage company called Storage Deluxe, opened his first art-storage space on the top two floors of a Storage Deluxe building in the Bronx in 2006.

Prices there for new rentals average $4.50 per square foot per month.

The new Long Island City facility is being built from the ground up with state-of-the-art security systems, fire protection and climate controls. Prices there will average $6 or $7 per square foot per month.

Like Christie’s, Uovo will offer suites customized for individual collections, including private art-viewing rooms and workspace for curators and conservators.

Uovo, which means egg in Italian, will target private collectors, artists’ estates, museums and art dealers, as well as musicians, actors and fashion designers interested in preserving their archives.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s blockbuster exhibition on the fashion designs of Alexander McQueen demonstrated the value of preserving fashion collections, prototypes and sketches, Mr. Guttman said.

His Bronx location currently houses the archives of two prominent pop musicians, according to Christopher Wise, executive vice president of Uovo.

Christie’s Red Hook facility, which opened in 2010 in a former warehouse, features high-tech security and climate controls that maintain “a virtually constant 70° and 50% relative humidity,” according to a video on the company’s website.

Ms. Abernathy noted that aside from the unexpected height of the storm surge, Christie’s was well prepared for Sandy, with generators on the roof that kept the security systems and climate controls up and running through the storm.

Mr. Guttman said he could improve on existing art-storage options with a facility purpose-built to receive and protect fine art.

Uovo’s indoor loading bay, for example, is designed to accommodate a wide-load tractor-trailer, and artworks as large as 40 feet long can be carried straight off the truck into a large-scale storage space.

“If it can get onto an over-the-road truck that’s DOT legal, it can come into the building,” Mr. Wise said.


Read on the Wall Street Journal website

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