A Devastating Fire Broke Out in a Brazilian Storage Unit Housing Thousands of Artworks From the Country’s Top Galleries

Artist Vik Muniz says there are "losses that cannot be replaced."

The fire at the Alke storage facility in Taboão da Serra, Brazil.

A fire erupted at an art storage facility used by Brazilian galleries last week in Taboão da Serra, a city outside of São Paulo. Top dealers including Simões de Assis, Luciana Brito, and Nara Roesler are clients of the facility.  

The blaze broke out in the late afternoon on Thursday, March 25, according to Brazilian media. It took 10 crews from the local fire station roughly five hours to quell the flames. No one was injured in the incident. 

Whether or not we can say the same about the thousands of artworks stored in the facility, including pieces by artists Tomie Ohtake, Isaac Julien, and Vik Muniz, is yet to be determined. A full audit of the inventory is currently underway for Nara Roesler, according to a representative from the gallery—and it may take some time to complete. 

At this point in time we can’t tell yet for sure all the works that were affected as everything is still being checked and rechecked for the insurance report.We had in the warehouse pieces from nearly all of the artists that the gallery represents,” the spokesperson for Roesler explained, adding that the artists were notified the day of the fire. “The final list should be ready in the next couple of weeks or so.”

So far, the prognosis is serious. The representative from the gallery said the damage was “huge.” 

“There will be losses that cannot be replaced,” Muniz, who is represented by Roesler, told local Brazilian news agency Folhapress. “This is very sad for a gallery that has a history as long and rich as Nara’s.”

Brazilian artist Emanoel Araújo, who is represented by Simões de Assis and had 13 artworks in the facility waiting to be shipped for an upcoming exhibition in the U.S., added that it was a “huge shock” to learn of the fire. 

“When you lose a work, it is very difficult because you cannot reconstruct it. It is something done in the past, it is really lost,” the artist told the agency. “There is no justification, it is a lack of attention, of responsibility. You can say what you want, but nothing that is said will solve it.”

Alke, the company that operates the facility, said in a statement that “there has never been a similar case in the company’s history.” The organization also claims that the facility had an up-to-date inspection certificate from the local fire department.

Representatives from Simões de Assis and Luciana Brito did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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