Interview with Neville Redvers-Mutton, Technical Project Manager at Momart

Momart provides an internationally renowned art transport, storage and handling service to galleries, museums, artists and collectors worldwide, and today, has become the trusted partner of prestigious art establishments including the V&A, Tate and the Royal Academy. Established in 1972, Momart has over 40 years experience and expertise, and works with institutions further afield such as MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. We speak to Neville Redvers-Mutton, Technical Project Manager at Momart, about the company’s long-standing relationships with esteemed organisations across the world and the future of art storage in light of recent developments in climate change.

A: What has been the most challenging installation that you have managed? Have there ever been projects that you have been unable to work on as they have been too complex / impractical?
NR: We have risen to most challenges and enjoy solving knotty problems – I can’t recall ever thinking any were too complex. A couple of years ago, we helped a Swiss artist to ship five enormous multi-panel wall murals to America and to install them in a new university building. Usually we are just a given an artwork and asked to install it; but in that instance, we had to work out all the panel sizes to millimetre accuracy so that they would fit into the proportions of the new building. Over several weeks the artist painted an incredible, reflective surface onto each panel at his studio in Zurich. Then we shipped them all to America and finally installed them on a special hanging rail system we commissioned. Working at such enormous distances and with such unique work, we had to be completely precise with our estimations, measurements and technical advise. The finished, 300 square metre, multi level mural looked brilliant when the scaffolding came down from the atrium. The panel colours change as you look at it from different floors and angles.

A: Fairs such as Frieze and Art Basel attract huge audiences from around the globe, along with established artists and galleries. Do you work collaboratively with private gallery technicians in arranging installations, and in the logistics of transporting art to and from the fairs?
NR: Yes, gallery technicians and registrars are under enormous pressure during art fairs and we really understand their ‘need for speed’ in that context. Gallery directors and sales teams change their wish lists at very short notice and everyone needs to be flexible enough to deal with that gracefully. As an organisation, Momart anticipates and brings a lot of experience and lateral thinking to that process. So if a gallery wants to take an amazing concrete sculpture to their stand, our technical team will be planning to get the booth floor strengthened to take it’s weight. Or if a Post-War Modern masterpiece is chosen for another stand, our art fair co-ordinators will spot that it’s just old enough to need an export licence and quickly apply for that in time for the export. Even when we get our clients’ artworks safely to their fair, we are often pre-booked to assist with installations – understandably, galleries like to rely in familiar faces when they’re far from home. Even more so when there’s a last minute panic and our clients need a bit of help and creative thinking when they’re in a tight spot. It often makes better financial sense for a gallery to rely on Momart’s resources in Basel, Miami and New York etc. rather than to fly their own technical and administrative staff out there.

A: As Momart transport and care for some of the most coveted pieces of art in the world, how do you reassure owners and artists when they hand their work over to you?
NR: Momart has dealt with so many amazing and famous works of art over the last 40 years that, very often, we simply recount certain aspects of our company history to our new clients. Whether they own a Canaletto or a Calder, we can point to numerous occasions where we have packed, shipped and installed a work similar to theirs. But as importantly, we look at each client’s art collection afresh and only use our past experience to inform each new response. We are really happy to explain our services to new clients and do not presume that glib explanations will suffice. If a client wants to see where their artworks will be stored, we invite them to our warehouse. If they’d like to understand why our packing cases or art trucks are so special, we will send them photographs and explanations, even show them examples if necessary. We also invite new clients to ask around their peer group or with their insurers about Momart. Reputation counts for a great deal; we have very often worked for someone they know well and have an excellent reputation within the international insurance market.

A: With such an emphasis on climate change and the impact that temperature controlled storage has upon the environment, how do you see the long term storage of art changing in the future?
NR: Climate control is vital for the preservation of rare paintings but not all art needs such care, many museums worldwide have been adopting new guidelines allowing greater flexibility in temperature and humidity controls. In the UK’s ‘Greener Museums’, institutions such as the Tate and the V&A have been instrumental in leading by example, implementing changes and drawing attention to the relevance of climate change to museums and galleries. The ongoing research into conservation and how it develops with global issues will almost certainly result in new international guidelines and conditions being agreed resulting in major energy savings. As a partner to the museum and gallery industry, we follow this research closely and adapt our storage environments in line with the latest energy-saving technologies.

A: Each year since 1984 Momart has produced a Christmas card designed by a well-known British artist; who would you like to see design the 2015 card and why?
NR: We’ve actually already commissioned this year’s artist – but we’re planning to do something quite special and want to keep it a surprise for now! 2015 is a great time for us to look back on the past 30 years of our Christmas cards, created as limited edition pieces by artists from Lucian Freud to Tracey Emin; David Hockney to Eduardo Paolozzi. Every year brings something completely different, and it’s become an inspiring archive to look back on. We’re looking forward to revealing more later this year.

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1. Katherine Fritsh, Hahn-Cock, 4th Plinth, 2013. Courtesy of Momart