European Art, Held Hostage by Capital

There is a global network of airport-based duty-free depots that buy and sell works of art that might never again see the light of day. Chances are you’re not among their customers.

In 1990, Japanese paper magnate and art collector Ryōei Saitō purchased a Van Gogh at a Christie’s auction. He paid 82.5 million US dollars, making “the Portrait of Dr. Gachet” the world’s most expensive painting at that time. Saitō died six years later. In his will, he ordered the portrait to be placed in the coffin along with his body and cremated. Since then, nothing is known about the whereabouts of the masterpiece.

Art in no-man’s-land

International art markets are booming. This often makes speculation on works of art less risky and more profitable than investing in stocks. And a booming international market needs an international infrastructure.

Le Freeport is a 22,000-square-meter storage facility adjacent to Luxembourg’s Findel airport. Around 60% of the space is rented to firms that deal with art. They sell, buy, and store it — all at the free-port zone. According to The Economist, Le Freeport is well equipped to handle works of art. Among others, it features temperature and humidity control and an array of on-site services, such as valuation and renovation.

Additionally, the facility offers wealthy art collectors and traders a triple protection: high security, maximal discretion, and minimal taxes. Works of art that are stored in Le Freeport are exempt from both VAT and customs duty. Art sales that are conducted inside the facility can also be done tax-free.

Free-ports are being used as a long-term storage of wealth and a tax-free space for doing business. There is a network of such warehouses around the world. It’s a fiscal no-man’s-land.

Free-ports are an offshoot of bonded warehouses, where goods in international transit can be stored temporarily without payment of duty. But, increasingly, free-ports are being used as a long-term storage of wealth and a tax-free space for doing business. There is a network of such warehouses around the world. It’s a fiscal no-man’s-land.

But it is also an integral part of the infrastructure of the global capital that occupies the seam between nation-states and their rule of law, widening these cracks.

jour_j_freeport-2

State authorities are increasingly concerned over their lack of knowledge about what is being stored in free-ports, and who the owners are. The suspicions are that free-ports might be playing an important role in international money laundering and in dealing with stolen goods.

Yves Bouvier is the Luxembourg free-port’s largest investor. Bouvier has also invested in a free-port in Geneva and in Le Freeport’s branch at the international airport of Singapore. “The Freeport King” has recently come under scrutiny for selling works of art — among others, several Rothkos and Picassos — to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for a total amount of 2 billion US dollars. Bouvier was arrested on suspicion of selling the paintings for inflated prices and allegations that some of them had doubtful origins.

Billionaires’ melancholy whims

“I’ve done the portrait of M. Gachet with a melancholy expression. There are modern heads that may perhaps be looked back on with longing a hundred years later,” wrote Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his sister in 1890. He was wrong. Exactly a hundred years later the painting’s fate was sealed and it was doomed to extinction.

The painting’s provenance is intimately intertwined with European history. When National Socialists ruled in Germany, it went through the hands of the Reich’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. They wanted to purge Germany of the so-called “degenerate” art, removed it from the city gallery in Frankfurt and sold it to a private collector.

More often than not, invaluable artifacts of European cultural heritage that are stored in free-ports were never meant to be displayed in living rooms. They increasingly become tenders of global capital and its hostages.

No wonder there was shock and a wave of loud protests surrounding Saitō’s decision to take the portrait of the melancholy head with him to the netherworld. A painting that survived the Nazis is now lost to humanity at the whim of a billionaire.

However, that was a burial of a single painting. A network of free-ports around the world is scaling up the graveyard business. More often than not, invaluable artifacts of European cultural heritage that are stored there were never meant to be displayed in living rooms. They increasingly become tenders of global capital and its hostages.

Forget the Louvre in Paris, forget London’s National Gallery or Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie. The Wall Street Journal estimates that the free-port in Geneva “may house the most valuable art collection in the world.” But, of course, one cannot say for sure which Picassos, Van Goghs, or Monets are in the vaults, as these are, as a rule, secret.

 

 

Daniel Tkatch

Daniel Tkatch was born in Kazakhstan, studied physics, art history and philosophy in Israel, Germany and Belgium, currently based in Brussels. He pursues a research in philosophy at KU Leuven, while covering cross-national political issues and developments in visual arts as a freelance journalist. Winner of the German-Polish Journalism Award 2014.


Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.

Legal note

1.    Terms and Conditions

2.    Privacy Policy

3.    Cookies Policy

 

1.    Terms and Conditions

Contact data for the web owner

This website has been created by KATOIKOS to promote their products and services.

– Name: Katoikos, S.L

– Co. tax Code:  B87123162

– Address:  Calle Campomanes 10, 28013  Madrid (SPAIN)

Registration details: Registered in the Commercial Register of Madrid.

Intellectual and Industrial Property

The various elements of this page, and website as a whole, are protected by Spanish legislation on intellectual and industrial property. The trademarks, trade names or logos appearing on this website are the property of the company, or, where appropriate, of third parties, and are protected by Trademarks Law, and of which KATOIKOS holds the legitimate license.

The information provided may not be used for commercial or public purposes, or modified. If the user downloads materials for personal and non-commercial use, warnings shall be kept about copyright and trademarks. To download and use the company logo that appears on the website, prior authorization is required.

Any unauthorised use of the images may violate copyright laws, trademark laws, the laws of privacy and publicity, and communications regulations and statutes.

Liability for Damage

KATOIKOS assumes no liability for damages you may suffer when browsing the web or in the use of computer applications that are part of it. Neither are warranties given as to the correction of malfunctions or updating of content.

Content you share with us

We may include features on this website that allow you to share your content with us and other users of the site. Please note that by sharing content it may become publicly accessible. You grant to Katoikos a worldwide, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license, without compensation to you:

 (a) to use, reproduce, distribute, adapt (including without limitation edit, modify, translate, and reformat), derive, transmit, display and perform, publicly or otherwise, such content, in any media now known or hereafter developed, for Kaotikos’ business purposes, and

 (b) to sublicense the foregoing rights, through multiple tiers, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. The foregoing licenses shall survive any termination of your use of the site, as further described below.

For all of the content you share through the site, you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary for you to grant these licenses, and that such content, and your provision or creation thereof through the site, complies with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations and does not infringe or otherwise violate the copyright, trademark, trade secret, privacy or other intellectual property or other rights of any third party, and is furthermore free from viruses and other malware.

Rules of Conduct

When using this website and/or sharing content with us, you are prohibited from posting or transmitting :

1. any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, racist, obscene, scandalous, deceptive, false, fraudulent, inflammatory or profane material or any material that could constitute or encourage conduct that would be considered a criminal offence, give rise to civil liability, or otherwise violate any law.
2. Any virus, worm, Trojan horse, Easter egg, time bomb, spyware or other computer code, file, or program that is harmful or invasive or may or is intended to damage or hijack the operation of, or to monitor the use of, any hardware, software or equipment;
3. Any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letter,” “pyramid scheme” or investment opportunity, or any other form of solicitation; and
4. Any material non-public information about a person or a company without the proper authorization to do so.

In addition, you will not:

1. Use this website for any fraudulent or unlawful purpose;
2. Interfere with or disrupt the operation of the website or the servers or networks used to make the website available; or violate any requirements, procedures, policies or regulations of such networks;
3. Access or use this website through any technology or means other than those expressly designated by us.
4. Restrict or inhibit any other person from using this website (including by hacking or defacing any portion of the website);
5. Except as expressly permitted by applicable law, modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble any portion of this website.
6. Remove any copyright, trademark or other proprietary rights notice from this website.
7. Frame or mirror any part of the webiste without our express prior written consent;
8. Create a database by systematically downloading and storing all or any content;
9. Use any robot, spider, site search/retrieval application or other manual or automatic device to retrieve, index, “scrape,” “data mine” or in any way reproduce or circumvent the navigational structure or presentation of this website, without our express prior written consent.

Links

Kaotikos  reserves the right to remove any messages or statements or cancel any links.

This site may include hyperlinks to other web sites that are not owned or controlled by Katoikos. Katoikos has no control over, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices of any third party websites.

Content may be hosted on YouTube or other social media. Those operate their own set of terms and conditions and privacy policy which are separate to the ones presented on this website. Katoikos no control over and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices on YouTube or other social media.

 The right to terminate your access

Katoikos reserves the right to terminate your access to this website at any time if you do not comply with these Terms and Conditions or you infringe Kaotikos’ rights in the content provided on this website.

Governing Law

These Terms and Conditions are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Spain, without regard to its choice of law provisions.  You agree to the exclusive jurisdiction by the courts of Spain.

Changes to the Terms

Katoikos reserves the right to make changes to the Terms and Conditions from time to time. You acknowledge and agree that your continued access to or use of this website will constitute your acceptance of such changes.

2.    Privacy Policy

Kaotikos takes the protection of your personal data very seriously and collects, processes and uses your data only in accordance with the standards of the legal data protection regulations.

Data is collected, processed and used with technologyes of the provider web trends for marketing and optimisation purposes and also for sending news and information you may be interested in by any electronic services, such as email or SMS.

Our website user’s database is registered at the Spanish Agency of Data Protection. You have the rights of access, rectification, deletion and opposition, regulated in articles 14 to 16 of the LOPD.

For this, please write to:

KATOIKOS (Data Protection) Calle Campomanes 10, 28013, Madrid (SPAIN)

Or send an email to info@katoikos.eu. Your ID will be requested for these issues.

3.    Cookies Policy

This site, like many others, uses small files called cookies to help us customise your experience. Find out more about cookies and how you can control them.

This page contains information on what ‘cookies’ are, the cookies used by the Kaotikos’ website and how to switch cookies off in your browser.

If it does not provide the information you were looking for, or you have any further questions about the use of cookies on the Katoikos’s website, please email info@katoikos.eu.

What are ‘cookies’?

‘Cookies’ are small text files that are stored by the browser (for example, Internet Explorer or Safari) on your computer or mobile phone. They allow websites to store things like user preferences. You can think of cookies as providing a ‘memory’ for the website, so that it can recognise you when you come back and respond appropriately.

How does the Katoikos’s website use cookies?

A visit to a page on the Kaotikos’s website may generate the following type of cookies: Anonymous analytics cookies.

This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc., a Delaware company whose main office is at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View (California), CA 94043, USA (“Google”).

Google Analytics uses “cookies”, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information on our behalf in order to track your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google’s behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.

Anonymous analytics cookies

Cookier Name Origin Aim End
__utma Google Analysis 2 years since set –up or update
__utmb Google Analysis 30 minutes since set –up or update
__utmc Google Analysis When browser sesión ends
_utmt Google Analysis 10 minutes since set –up or update
__utmz Google Analysis 6 months since set –up or update

How do I turn cookies off?

It is usually possible to stop your browser accepting cookies, or to stop it accepting cookies from a particular website. All modern browsers allow you to change your cookie settings. You can usually find these settings in the ‘options’ or ‘preferences’ menu of your browser. To understand these settings, the following links may be helpful, or you can use the ‘Help’ option in your browser for more details.

Cookie settings in Internet Explorer
Cookie settings in Firefox
Cookie settings in Chrome
Cookie settings in Safari web and iOS.

 

© 2018 Katoikos, all rights are reserved. Developed by eMutation | New Media

Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
Your information will never shared with a third party.
logo
subscriber!
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)
Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
logo
subscriber!
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
Your information will never shared with a third party.
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)