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Fire at Seattle gallery damages art by Picasso, Rembrandt: ‘This is irreplaceable artwork’

SEATTLE - An art gallery in Pioneer Square caught fire Friday morning, damaging thousands of priceless pieces of art. "We did lose a Picasso," said Davidson Galleries manager Rebecca McDonald. "Weâre still going through all the art and cataloging it." According to the Seattle Fire Department (SFD), the fire started in the alley, most likely caused by a warming fire that extended into the building. Fire investigators ruled the fire accidental. Calls for the fire first came in at 6:29 a.m. The 2-alarm fire was brought under control by 8 a.m. However, there was extensive damage to the building. According to the gallery, paintings by Pablo Picasso and Rembrandt were among those damaged in the fire. "We have artwork from 1490 all the way up to the ink is still drying on the paper," said McDonald. "We have that whole range." Gallery employees tell FOX 13 that during the fire both firefighters and volunteers worked to salvage as much artwork as possible. "The first thing they did was bring out the solander boxes, which are black museum boxes," said McDonald. "They brought them out as soon as possible, and some of them were still smoldering. But they knew what they were handling was precious art." Davidson Galleries said the gallery had a lot of its work laid out on the floor as it was preparing to move to a new location on Yesler. That new location is where volunteers and employees are now cleaning salvaged artwork. "We have people who really know what theyâre doing," said McDonald. "Weâre focused on what we can save. I donât care if itâs $5, $10 or $20,000. Weâre treating everything as if itâs valuable, and weâre trying to save as much as possible."â The gallery initially planned to reopen in their new space by February. Given the fire, those plans have been delayed as workers assess the damage and clean the artwork.


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A fire at a prestigious Seattle gallery damaged more than 100 valuable works of art – including “irreplaceable” ones by Rembrandt and Pablo Picasso.

The blaze likely started early Friday when a warming fire in an alley accidentally got out of hand and spread into Davidson Galleries, the Seattle Times reported, citing the Seattle Fire Department.

The gallery had about 16,000 pieces valued at up to $28,000 each, gallery manager Rebecca McDonald told the outlet.

At least two etchings by Picasso and Rembrandt were among those works damaged or possibly destroyed, McDonald explained.

“Yes, we have insurance [but] we love what we do and we love the art … That’s what’s breaking our heart. This is irreplaceable artwork,” McDonald told the Seattle Times, her voice breaking.

Currently, about 50 to 75 pieces are thought to be damaged beyond repair, gallery collections manager Paige McCray told the outlet.

“We are currently reviewing pieces with less damage for their restoration potential. With the protection of archival mats and other materials, the vast majority of artworks were saved,” McCray said via email.

Davidson Galleries did not immediately return The Post’s request for comment.

The devastating fire came shortly after Davidson Galleries – which recently marked its 50th anniversary – announced plans to relocate from its longtime storefront.

The move turned out to be a mixed blessing: Some works had already been moved off-site by the time the fire broke out, while others were more exposed than they would otherwise be due to preparations, McDonald said.

The gallery manager was woken up by an alarm from the building’s security company around 6:30 a.m. Friday, she recalled.

The move turned out to be a mixed blessing: Some works had already been moved off-site by the time the fire broke out, while others were more exposed than they would otherwise be due to preparations, McDonald said.

By the time she arrived at the scene, firefighters were already at work.

“They were very cognizant that it was an art gallery and that we did work on paper. So they were very diligent about trying not to have water go everywhere. And they also helped with removing art from the drawers and bringing it outside when things had calmed down,” she told the Seattle Times.

Later in the morning, the firefighters brought salvaged works in stacks of flat files outside and piled them on the ground, local artist Aidan Sakakini, who stopped to help, said of the scene.

“We were carrying stuff from the old space to the new space. And then they had people at the Yesler spot just unpacking the boxes that were soaked. Inevitably, some work was lost. It was very hard to gauge how much,” he explained.

The windows of the gallery were also blacked out by soot, photos showed.

Sakakini even spotted the gallery’s venerable owner, Sam Davidson, surveying the losses with his wife.

“Tragic,” he lamented.

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