There’s nothing modest about the art world anymore, if there ever used to be. Back during the decrepit olden times (the 20th century), if one was in possession of a substantial art collection, the collection could find a home in a warehouse with adequate security. Now, these humble warehouses have largely morphed into behemoth facilities that are compatible with the kinds of environments that are usually occupied by traders and owners of works of art. In other words, art storage has gotten a significant upgrade in accordance with the one percent lifestyle, oftentimes to the detriment of the workers who staff these rapidly evolving facilities. This change has also been reflected by the kinds of spaces that the public is being allowed to occupy. The city of Moscow, for example, is reportedly working on the construction of a 70,000-square-foot storage and exhibition center, with construction due to commence in 2020.
The simple answer to the question of why art storage has gotten so sophisticated and multifaceted so rapidly is because for people who own art collections (a.k.a. the very rich), their homes are no longer sufficient to contain the expanding troves of art they’re always working on adding to. “Generally, members of the trade would keep some of the inventory or artists’ families would keep their inventory stored—the advance [in art storage] probably came from certain collectors having collections that are larger than the space on their walls,” Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s America, told Observer. “So, either one builds an art barn as an addition or uses one of the newer generations of art storage facilities.” The new Pace Gallery headquarters, for example, can retain 600 paintings in storage: the perfect home-away-from-home for canvases owned by flyover state billionaires who’re constantly in transit.
However, also present is the more democratic notion that art should be accessible to anyone who wants to see it, regardless of their income bracket. These contrasting instincts lead to projects like Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz’s planned Dean Collection Music & Art Campus: it’s a building that will put at least part of their robust art collection on display, as well as make resources available to the “global creative community.”
Ultimately, to understand the rise of high-end art storage is to understand that an influx of global wealth means that art spaces all are starting to blend together: galleries are seeming more like museums, private collections are looking more like galleries and art storage facilities are feeling more like James Bond-caliber vaults. This gloss, pomp and circumstance surrounding art storage only makes one more curious about what’s kept inside.