03 - Momart, London
Artists can be sensitive souls but that’s nothing compared with the fruits of their labour. The logistics of transporting artwork is itself a fine art, honed by companies such as Momart – east London-based specialists that lead the way in the field. Transporting priceless artworks for more than 40 years, their client list includes the Tate, Gagosian, Royal Academy and V&A.
When Monocle visits the Momart workshop, tucked away on an anonymous industrial estate, the packing team are busy finishing a bespoke climate-controlled case for an Antony Gormley self portrait – a life-sized iron sculpture contained in barrier foil to preserve the exact oxidised patina. This is small fry, however, compared to other projects, which include floating Ron Mueck’s “Boy” on a barge down the Venice Grand Canal and hoisting a solid silver antique carriage up the side of a gallery in LA – removing several walls in the process.
“We have thousands of protective techniques at our disposal,” says head of packing Mark Harton. “The key is keeping them simple but taken together they build a system more complicated than any computer.” Having worked for the company for 20 years, art school-trained Harton sources all sustainable packing timber from European sources.
The Momart warehouse contains over 25,000 artworks, with crate labels including “Hirst”, “Chapman” and “Turk”. “A client once said that you know you’ve made it when you’re in our warehouse,” says director Anna Maris. Security is obviously an issue. “We have rigorous background checks and everything is GPS-tracked, but other than that we’re very discreet. It’s only with the Royal Collection that we lay on a convoy.”
Facts and figures:
4.5 tonnes: the weight of a Henry Moore sculpture transported
$2bn: the value of a collection of Turners shipped to Washington
£14m: annual turnover, with 118 London-based staff
11 years: since Momart was awarded the Royal Warrant