Keep your valuables as safe as a fortress

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 November, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 November, 1995, 12:00am

Complete with turrets and a brick exterior covering a metal skin, all Christie's omitted to build was the moat.

YOU justified your buying spree at last week's Art Asia fair to your spouse by claiming that they would be 'good investments'. But now that you have objets d'art piling up in the dusty corners of your Peak home, your spouse is again not pleased.

Too valuable to simply store in a warehouse, but too bulky to keep in a safe deposit box, your collectibles need some place safe where they can hopefully appreciate in value.

How about a fortress? In a central London neighbourhood near Vauxhall Bridge is a special security warehouse built in the style of a medieval castle. Complete with turrets and a brick exterior covering a second metal skin, all Christie's, the art auctioneers, omitted to build was a moat.

Christie's built this 100,000 square foot facility 10 years ago especially for customers to store valuables such as paintings and art collectibles.

Visible and invisible security features at the warehouse include electronic cameras and monitors, electric shutting gates, computer-controlled alarms and a private security force.

Nothing has ever been stolen from or damaged at the warehouse in 10 years.

That unblemished record has attracted high-profile clients including major museums from London, Paris and New York, the names of which G.F. Brennan-Jesson, director of Christie's Fine Art Security Services, will not disclose.

'We've got hundreds of millions of pounds worth of valuables here,' he said.

Mr Brennan-Jesson emphasises that the warehouse offers its clients much more than an ultra-secure place to store their valuables.

Many art objects and collectibles need to be stored in very specific environments.

'Japanese lacquerware needs high levels of humidity, else the lacquer falls off,' said Mr Brennan-Jesson.

By contrast, books need to be kept in an environment humid enough so that the vellum will not crack but dry enough so that mould does not grow.

Each of the more than 200 individual, computer-monitored rooms can be customised for temperature, humidity, and light requirements.

Prices range from GBP2,400 (about HK$28,000) a year for a 48 sq ft unit to GBP30,000 a year for an 840 sq ft room. Artworks which do not require such exacting environmental conditions can be stored as cheaply as GBP1 a day in the common warehouse.

Fire damage is another occasional hazard in storing valuables. But water damage from overhead sprinklers can prove equally ruinous to artwork. Christie's strategy is to contain potential fires rather than attempting to extinguish them and risk damaging the artwork.

Each of the individual rooms has a solid wooden door rated with up to two hours' resistance to a blaze.

Corridors can also be remotely sealed off to give extra fire protection.

Though storing valuables at Christie's warehouse is not cheap, the prices are somewhat mitigated, Mr Brennan-Jesson said, by the cheap insurance rates typically offered to clients because of the warehouse's secure reputation.




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