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Picasso, Rembrandt among paintings damaged in devastating fire at Seattle art gallery

SEATTLE — An art gallery in Pioneer Square caught fire Friday morning, damaging thousands of pieces spanning decades.

According to the Seattle Fire Department, the fire was started in the alley behind Davidson Gallery by a person trying to keep warm. The fire spread into the building, which contained an estimated 18,000 works of art collected over 50 years. It also included some major works by artists represented by the gallery.

The fire was brought under control quickly, but not before extensive damage was done to the building.

According to the gallery, paintings by Pablo Picasso and Rembrandt were among those that were damaged in the fire.

“Since 90% is works on paper, it’s very difficult to know what survived,” the gallery’s owner, Sam Davidson, told KIRO 7.

In this instance, the gallery was especially vulnerable as it was preparing to move to a new location on Yesler.

“We were in a particularly vulnerable position,” Davidson said. “We had lots of inventory laid out, the drawers open, it laid on the floor, so we could transport them to the new location. So it invited the maximum amount of smoke damage.”

He told us it’s impossible to know just how extensive the damage is, but says much of it can’t be replaced.

“It’s just hard even to assess it,” he said. “The loss for the artists, the loss for the collectors -- pieces that we took in in good faith are now toast.”

Many from the local community stopped by to help firefighters move art pieces out onto the curb and into vans to be transported.

“It’s part of the wonderful part of the art community, that they come together when there’s a need,” Davidson said.

The gallery had initially planned to open in their new space by February, but that’s now up in the air as they assess the damage from this fire.