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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Hirst sculpture 'escapes blaze'
Damien Hirst's Charity. Photo: White Cube
Damien Hirst recently sold Charity to a collector
A bronze statue by artist Damien Hirst that was thought to have been destroyed in a fire has survived, according to the artist's representatives.

A warehouse fire in Leyton, east London, is estimated to have sent 50m of modern art up in smoke.

But Hirst's 22ft (6.7m) Charity, based on the old Spastic Society collection boxes, was in the building's yard.

A spokeswoman for Hirst's Science Ltd, said they expected to salvage the work - as long as a wall does not collapse.

Loss assessors and forensic investigators had found it leaning against a "precarious wall" on Thursday, she told BBC News Online.

But Hirst's other works had perished, she said, alongside those of Tracey Emin, brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman, Chris Ofili, Gavin Turk and Sarah Lucas.

"A bronze is just about the only thing that would survive the fire," she said, adding that they did not know whether it was damaged.

Hirst recently auctioned Charity for charity and it belonged to another collector.

Damien Hirst
Hirst lost a number of paintings in the blaze
On Thursday, fire experts and police began trying to establish the cause of the fire.

More than 100 pieces owned by art mogul Charles Saatchi were among those inside. Warehouse owner Momart said it was "deeply saddened" by the loss.

It said the fire appeared to have started in a separate building in the warehouse complex, some distance from the art storage unit.

Investigators are expected to spend up to three days at the scene, carrying out a forensic-style examination of the debris.

"It's a huge site, the size of a football pitch, and many officers will be taking part," a London Fire Brigade spokesman told BBC News Online.

The fire in Leyton
The warehouse fire broke out on Monday
Momart managing director Eugene Boyle said the company was keeping its clients informed of developments.

"Our insurers are completely satisfied that we took all the necessary steps to ensure the safekeeping of the works of art in our possession," he said.

The company was constantly reviewing security and safety arrangements, he added.

"We take security and safety very seriously and have enjoyed a blemish-free record since we were founded in 1971," he said.

'Positive response'

Momart's insurance company, Heath Lambert, said the fire was an instance of "exactly why the insurance market exists".

"So far we have received a very positive response from the various insurers involved," said a spokesman.

"It is too early to say what impact, if any, this loss will have on insurance rates and capacity in the specialist art market."

One City art insurance specialist contacted by BBC News Online said the cost could be between 40m and 50m.

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