If businesses like casinos and gem dealers must report suspicious financial activity to regulators, so should art dealers and auction houses. But to dealers and their clients, secrecy is a crucial element of the art market’s mystique and practice.
Have you ever accidentally told the customs authorities that a painting you own is worth $100 when it’s really worth $8,000,000? It’s an experience we can all relate to, I’m sure. It’s such an easy mistake to make, isn’t it? The quotes here are from a relatively shallow but interesting article by Patricia Cohen in the New York Times, on money laundering through art, which is the evil (or more evil) twin of high level art dealing as investment:
As other traditional money-laundering techniques have come under closer scrutiny, smugglers, drug traffickers, arms dealers and the like have increasingly turned to the famously opaque art market, officials say.
It is hard to imagine a business more custom-made for money laundering, with million-dollar sales conducted in secrecy and with virtually no oversight. What this means in practical terms is that “you can have a transaction where the seller is listed as ‘private collection’ and the buyer is listed as ‘private collection,’ ” said Sharon Cohen Levin, chief of the asset forfeiture unit of the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. “In any other business, no one would be able to get away with this.”
Though there are no hard statistics on the amount of laundered money invested in art, law enforcements officials and scholars agree they are seeing more of it.
Read the whole article here:
Previously on this blog:
Money laundering, arms dealers.
Ten international galleries want you, like a vampire bat wants sleeping cattle. Premio Ora (“Premium Hours”) says that the “basic registration fee required as partial coverage for organizational expenses” is €60 to enter three art works for consideration. Poor things, only covering their organisational expenses partially. Each additional image after the first three is only €5 and luckily for
them you, it’s possible to enter an unlimited number of works.
Yes, it’s another sketchy “opportunity” for artists to enter a competition where they pay for the remote opportunity of possibly getting an unpaid gallery show, i.e. something that an artist should usually be paid for, or at the very least should not have to pay for in order to be considered. I’m providing links here for the purpose of verification; I wouldn’t suggest visiting any of them unless you want to know which international galleries are involved in this farrago and I would therefore recommend in the strongest possible terms that you don’t ever have any dealings with whatsoever.
A bona fide artist who is having an exhibition at an art gallery is not a “winner” and does not pay all the costs of transporting and exhibiting their work. Any artist who does so is a customer, and they should have their service– i.e. in this case their work shown in the gallery for two weeks– provided to them without quibbles and without all this pretence of meritocratic selection or curatorial oversight. Continue reading
Pinot Gallizio cutting and selling a scroll of industrial paintings by the meter. Inauguration of ‘Industrille Malerei’ show at Van de Loo Gallery, Munich, April 1959.
Giuseppe (Pinot) Gallizio (1904-1964) worked for most of his life as a pharmacist in Turin. Like many people (including me) who come late or by an otherwise circuitous route to the art world, many of its practices and assumptions struck him as utterly absurd; even more so as he began to participate in them. Gallizio was a founding member of the International Situationists (society of the spectacle masking the degrading effects of capitalism, Guy Debord, the 1968 French uprisings, détournement, dérives, etc: it’s far too large a subject to cover in a single blog post…) and in his art works he tried to cultivate a sense of play and creativity in the face of the capitalist imperative to recuperate, neutralise, and monetise even something as indefinable as art.
One of his projects was industrial paintings, abstract works on scrolls that were designed to be sold and cut on the spot like any other commodity, such as the original blank canvas it was painted on. The paintings themselves aren’t actually very good or interesting, but that isn’t the point of them. He was making fun of the idea of art as a unique object or a finite resource; judging by the photos on the left, he was having a lot of fun doing it too. What a suave gent. I have to admit that on a few occasions I’ve rocked this bushy moustache and bow tie look at art openings. There’s a post on Yves Klein coming up soon; he favoured similar outfits as well and he also always looks like he’s having a great time in all the photos of him I’ve seen. I’m definitely going to apply myself to perfecting the late 50s/early 60s Continental look now. Like Klein, Gallizio was ahead of his time with his thinking on capitalism, commodification and intellectual property in the art world and in Western society in general.
The thought processes and language of MBA courses and business consultants sometimes have a kind of mad, alien appeal. I found this “BCG Box” in a Swiss pop-business psychology book called The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking (by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler). It’s a slightly superior example of the crap they sell in airports so salarymen can sit in the departure lounge clutching them and looking like go-getters. Most of the things in the aforementioned book fall into the categories of stating the obvious or bafflingly stupid, or into a Venn overlap of the two. The BCG Box, however, struck me as quite interesting for its unsentimental attempt to perform a kind of economic triage and be relatively objective and non-political about it. It was developed in the 1970s by the Boston Consulting Group (hence BCG) as a way of assessing the value of investments in a company’s portfolio.
It shouldn’t take much of a leap to see how this might apply to arts funding and the commercial art world, or the interplay of both. One might also use it to reflect upon one’s own position, priorities and prospects in the art world. If you’re working in the arts it will probably be pretty clear that most of your colleagues or aspiring youths trying to break in (and yourself, if you’re honest) can fit into one of these four categories without much ambiguity. The process is also interesting, especially in light of the supposed necessity in Britain and elsewhere for IMF/The Markets-imposed “austerity”, cuts and de-investment: you can safely ignore the obvious dogs (if they are obvious, and that’s a big if) but if you don’t invest in the question marks you’ll never get stars, which in turn will never turn into cash cows. QED.
… although admittedly the imagery of “liquidating” artist “dogs” smacks rather strongly of the Cultural Revolution or a Khmer Rouge Year Zero massacre.
The same book also reminded me in some way of (former editor of Wired magazine, so be aware that he has a very distinct Californian technocratic-libertarian axe to grind) Chris Anderson and his Long Tail. Not that kind of tail. His claim or hypothesis was that the internet and globalised markets means nowadays virtually anything that is offered for sale is bought by somebody. The best sellers and blockbusters are in high demand but paradoxically they’re dwarfed by the cumulative sales of vast numbers of products that only sell relatively few units each (not least because the peak is extremely sharp and narrow, but the tail goes on for longer than any chart could reasonably show.) Amazon is often given as a prime example of a business based on “rest sellers” and not just best sellers. Maybe the long tail is where the dogs need to hang out… and there’s so much mixed metaphor and confusing imagery in that phrase that I think I’ll just stop now.
The filename of this image is “coolsm”, which I presume refers to the copy… but S&M is also cool. In this narrative I think the artists who submit work are the masochists which must make Show Artists the doms. THEY WANT TO SEE “IT” AND THEY’LL SHOW YOU, OH YES. The safe phrase is “get lost”.
Hello everybody, my name is DJ Artistair and when I’m not DJing at the coolest Chilean clubs (I specialise in Monkstep, but you won’t have heard of it yet because I’m cooler than you), or testing out new men’s hair products, or having laser eye surgery or posing for generic stock photography, I Exhibit & Sell [sic] my art, which consists of TV test cards and small obsolete racing cars. Because “cards” and “cars” sound almost the same, so my work is interrogating the po(li/e)tics of homonymy.
Not really. Actually I’m much more handsome than this and I haven’t worn a waistcoat since before the Second World War. What really happened is that Show Artists took it upon themselves to spam me with their spamming stick, so I thought I’d give them some of the publicity they crave. I think the appropriate cliché is “be careful what you wish for.” Sorry guys, I may have suffered every indignity as an artist except popularity but I’m not a moron and unfortunately for you I have considerably more sense than money. Not the first one of these I’ve been subjected to, but it’s as stupid as any of them. Continue reading