x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Art collector urges speedy resolution after losing Dh1.3m of works

Businessman lost several pieces of contemporary art valued at over Dh1bn following New Years' Eve fire

Ramin Salsali lost this Burj Khalifa picture, taken by architectural photographer Christian Voigt, in The Address Downtown blaze. He is asking that the building’s owner, Emaar, be efficient and prompt in paying compensation. Courtesy Salsali Private Museum
Ramin Salsali lost this Burj Khalifa picture, taken by architectural photographer Christian Voigt, in The Address Downtown blaze. He is asking that the building’s owner, Emaar, be efficient and prompt in paying compensation. Courtesy Salsali Private Museum

Insurance claims just as urgent as building repairs

A businessman who owned apartments within The Address Downtown is urging the building’s developer and owner Emaar Properties to be as efficient in dealing with residents’ compensation claims as it has pledged to be in restoring the property.

Ramin Salsali, a petrochemicals consultant and contemporary art collector who owns and runs a private museum in Al Quoz, estimated that he has lost about Dh1.3 million in personal possessions, including many artworks, as a result of the blaze that broke out on New Year’s Eve.

“They already announced that they are going to repair the building, if it is repairable,” Mr Salsali said. “They are assessing right now with an engineering company whether the structure has been damaged.

“Now, everything will narrowed down to one point – how Emaar will compensate the owners or the tenants of the building.”

Mr Salsali owned four apartments within The Address Downtown – two of which, he said, were destroyed by the blaze.

Another, which was used by a member of his staff, suffered smoke damage and the fourth only light damage.

Mr Salsali’s private residence is one of the two that were destroyed. It had a number of artworks and sculptures inside that have been lost, including works by the Iranian artist Amir Hossein Zanjani and the US-based painter George Condo.

It also had a “more sophisticated” safe than the standard model provided by the hotel that contained important documents.

“But this safe is destroyed, completely melted. It’s unbelievable.”

Mr Salsali said that he had not taken out specific contents insurance, as he believed that was covered as part of service charges paid to Emaar.

“The maintenance fees that we paid – there is one item that says insurance for the contents of the household.

“When you read this, you’re not going to do any insurance as such because first the building is insured, and second the content is covered. That was the assumption, and it’s written on the detailed cost list.”

Mr Salsali, who was in Europe at the time of the blaze, praised Emaar staff and Dubai Civil Defence authorities for their speedy reaction, which meant that only minor injuries occurred.

“Until now, they [Emaar] have been very fair and have quickly reacted to accommodate people, put them in hotels, give them the first basic possibilities just to start to recover.”

He expected “a very unbureaucratic and pragmatic approach” from the developer in terms of how claims were handled – especially since a police report last week indicated that an electrical short-circuit from a spotlight caused the blaze.

“The whole world is now watching. The effect on real estate is unbelievable. People have pulled out of contracts where they don’t know about the fire safety of the cladding. It’s not good for Dubai.”

Emaar did not respond to a request for clarification on whether tenants’ contents were insured as part of service or maintenance agreements, or if they would be compensated through its buildings insurance policy.

However, it emailed residents this week and said it was still working with authorities and insurers to determine the cause of the fire. Until this is completed, the email said, it was unable to comment on any liability aspects.

It has also asked residents to submit claims identifying losses within the next seven days.

A spokesman said that “discussions with the insurance companies are continuing regarding the claims”.

“We are committed to reopening the hotel to its old glory,” he said. “To expedite the reopening of The Address Downtown Dubai, we have appointed Dutco Group as the contractor. They are undertaking the clearing, assessment and restoration work. We will announce the timeline in due course.”

mfahy@thenational.ae