Superstorm Sandy has been the cause of a lot of destruction in New York in just a few days’ time. People have lost their lives and their homes, subway tunnels have been completely flooded and inoperable, and the cleanup efforts are just beginning. For art, which can often be fragile, storms like Sandy can mean massive, widespread destruction.
While some museums were not in the flooded zones of the city, many were. Particularly in Chelsea, galleries faced massive flooding. The owner of the Postmasters Gallery, Magda Sawon, tweeted, “Chelsea is flooded up to tenth avenue… Pumping the basement.”
In many cases, paintings not moved to higher ground or removed from the walls have been “badly damaged,” according to the Guardian. Some work has been completely destroyed. Rachel Churner, owner of Churner and Churner gallery, counts her losses at somewhere around $100,000. And some galleries are still inaccessible.
Red Hook, one of the districts in Brooklyn, was also badly damaged. Many artists have studios or apartments in that district in particular, and so many have lost incredible amounts of work.
Perhaps the most damage to art was the community art in public spaces. Some more valuable pieces, like Picasso’s She Goat and Fritsch’s Group of Figures, were removed or secured prior to the storm to prevent damage, but obviously not all public art could be kept safe. And with the rise in the amount of public art in New York since 9/11, the damage could be astounding.
For now, it’s too soon to know for sure. Cleanup is just beginning, and it will be quite some time before all the damaged and destroyed art is appraised and claims are processed. We can only hope that more artwork was saved than destroyed.