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Rescue of art from New Orleans flood

Sending three specialist art packers on a commando mercy mission to New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, we rescued a $4m+ exhibition of paintings from the rising floodwaters of the Mandarin Orient Hotel lobby.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a human disaster on a massive scale and, quite rightly, all efforts at the immediate time were focussed on saving human lives.

But with that initial rescue mission underway, attention turned to some, less valuable in human terms but still very much worth saving, works of art threatened by the waters.

The Five Star Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New Orleans had at least $4million worth of art - thirty paintings in all - on exhibition and the hotel insurers were getting very worried. No power, no security and about three feet of dirty sea water in the hotel lobby that was still slowly rising.

Shortly after receiving the call in London to mount a rescue mission, Cadogan Tate staff flew from the UK into the nearest working airport to New Orleans with all their packing supplies checked onto the plane as baggage.

Six hours hard driving after landing, and with a special permit from the Governor of Louisiana to let them pass through the National Guard, the team was on site in a very deserted, very dark and very wet hotel. 

For two days and nights they packed under extremely uncomfortable conditions, washing in bottled Evian water from the bar and eating what could be salvaged from the rapidly thawing kitchen freezers.

Soon though the paintings were in the security van and on their way to warm and dry conditions in an art warehouse in Florida.

Our team immediately flew back to the UK, vowing never to complain about the English weather again.

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