||Miros, Rodins Among Millions in Art Lost at WTC
NEW YORK (Reuters) - While the collapse of the World Trade
Center towers led to a staggering loss of life, it also
delivered an unprecedented blow to the art world, destroying an
estimated $100 million in artwork, analysts and experts say.
The sheer magnitude of the Sept. 11 attacks by two hijacked
commercial jetliners and the enormous size of the 110-story
twin towers have wrought what analysts say may be the largest
single-incident art loss in history.
Beyond such public works as a Calder sculpture and a Miro
tapestry which once adorned the Trade Center's plazas or
lobbies, corporations also lost millions of dollars in art.
The company often mentioned as having suffered the greatest
loss of life in the attack, bond broker Cantor Fitzgerald, was
also home to the Iris & B. Cantor collections of Rodin
sculptures, among the world's foremost assemblage of Rodins.
Along with over 700 Cantor employees, the collection is now
lost. Perhaps not surprisingly given the staggering human loss,
Cantor officials say the art is not a major concern.
"It's not the highest agenda item,'' a Cantor spokesman
said. "We're much more concerned with the human toll than the
fiscal toll, much more focused on rebuilding the business and
helping the families of lost employees.''
PORT AUTHORITY HAD EXTENSIVE COLLECTION
Dr. Dietrich von Frank, president and CEO of AXA Art, the
world's largest art insurer, said the Port Authority of New
York and New Jersey, which leased the property to Silverstein
Properties Inc., had a "very extensive'' collection including
works by Calder, Miro, Liechtenstein and Nevelson.
And while he said a few works had miraculously survived the
cascade of concrete and rubble that rained on the site when the
two towers collapsed, "everything that ... we had insured in
the towers is basically gone. Even bronze sculptures, because
of the heat from the fires, are gone.''
"So far the loss outweighs Northridge, the loss outweighs
Hurricane Andrew,'' Frank said of the 1994 earthquake in
California and 1992 storm in south Florida that resulted in
millions in insurance claims.
"Swissair 111 certainly was not of that magnitude,'' he said
of the 1998 crash of the jetliner that was carrying at least
one Picasso and a cargo of valuable jewelry.
AXA Art is a subsidiary of AXA Nordstern Art Versicherung
AG of Cologne, Germany and a member of AXA Group, Paris, one of
world's largest financial services organizations with some
$788 billion in assets.
It insures private and corporate collections, galleries,
museums and exhibitions and had three corporate clients at the
trade center, which Frank declined to name.
"My initial estimate was that the entire artwork lost in
the both towers would have been in excess of $100 million,''
Frank said in an interview, adding that his widely quoted
figure remains an estimate.
"It's rather difficult to pinpoint exactly the artwork that
has been lost,'' Frank said, although he said that claims from
two of AXA Art's three WTC clients were nearly complete.
LIMIT TO THE IMPORTANCE OF ART
Ordinarily Frank said insurers will inspect damaged works
that are partially recovered. "But in this case I've made a
conscious decision that we do not want to meddle with the
people in Staten Island,'' where the debris is being carted to
the Fresh Kills landfill.
"There is a limit to the importance of art,'' he said. The
collapse of the twin towers killed roughly 4,500 people.
"It's going to take a while for people to figure out where
many of the works might have been,'' agreed Anna Kisluk,
director of art services for the Art Loss Register, a private
company that maintains a computerized image database of stolen
and missing works of art.
Works from corporate collections are routinely lent out for
traveling exhibits, she said. "Things do move around.
Corporations have fairly active lending programs.''
"And then there are the privately owned works,'' Kisluk
added. "An executive might have had a work on his wall, for
example.'' And given the magnitude of the human losses, Kisluk
said "it is still very early in terms of documenting and
reporting lost artwork.''
"There are other priorities right now than figuring out
insurance claims,'' she said.
Complicating the problem is the loss of records, many of
which were also housed in the trade center.
"Who knows whether people will ever be able to come up with
any kind of definitive list, because records were destroyed.''
Port Authority officials have documented more than half a
dozen large-scale works appraised at over $8 million that were
either lost or damaged.
Among those were one of the center's most recognizable icons,
''The Sphere,'' Fritz Koenig's 27-foot-high bronze sphere that
sat in the fountain plaza between the two looming towers.
Amazingly, "the sphere was fairly intact,'' said Allen
Morrison, a Port Authority spokesman, and is one of a few works
that could be a candidate for restoration.
Another is Calder's "Bent Propellor,'' a steel sculpture
that stood in the plaza in front of 7 World Trade Center. About
one-third to one-half of it has been recovered, and the Calder
Foundation is looking for the rest with the hope of eventually
restoring it. They even put up notices seeking information.
Parts of Calder's "Stabile'' have also been recovered, said
Morrison, who added "I don't know what the status is'' in terms
of its suitability for restoration.
But more fragile pieces, such as Joan Miro's "Tapestry for
World Trade Center,'' a 20-by-35-foot (6-by-11 meter) 1974 work
that hung in the 2 World Trade Center lobby for nearly 20
years, are gone. The Spanish government has reportedly asked
artist Josep Royo to reconstruct the tapestry, which was
appraised at $2 million.
By Christopher Michaud
||Tuesday, October 17, 2005
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