Defeating terrorism and saving art: fighting the same battle

With a Foreword by Pierre Buhler

This working paper is also available in French.

The antiques market draws increasing attention both in Europe and in the United States[1] following both the unprecedented attacks on cultural landmarks around the world, and ISIS’s institutionalisation of “blood antiquities’’ looting (leading some to raise concerns of a“mass destruction market”[2]).

More generally, there are also questions about the art market’s global functioning, specifically around its regulation and its weak compliance culture. Once combined, these elements pose explicit risks: geopolitic and security risk (terrorism financing, organized crime[3], etc.); diplomatic[4] and cultural risk (identity destruction, sale of stolen objects); various economic risks stemming from irrational, subjective and variable prices (money laundering, fraud, tax evasion[5]), and finally the systemic risk for buyers[6] as fakes flood the market. 

Similarly to “blood diamonds”, only a global solution can solve such a global issue already exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis (as demonstrated by the information from source countries[7] or online sales[8]). The European Union and the United States, which both represent a tremendous share of the global market, are making significant progress. Beyond law enforcement, the question of a global and adapted regulation remains unanswered.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/01/arts/design/antiquities-market-regulation.html

[2] marketmassdestruction.com

[3] https://art-crime.blogspot.com/2020/01/vasil-bozhkovs-antiquities-collection.html ; https://art-crime.blogspot.com/2017/11/a-sicilian-mafia-primer-to-organized.html

[4] https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2021-01-14/regulating-art-market-good-foreign-policy

[5] https://intpolicydigest.org/2021/01/21/is-the-curtain-coming-down-on-criminal-schemes-in-the-art-market/

[6] https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2706.html ; https://next.liberation.fr/culture/2000/12/05/art-faux-et-usage-de-faux_346606 ; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165176511002618 ; https://news.artnet.com/art-world/recent-art-forgery-scandals-705428 ; https://news.artnet.com/market/faberge-ivanov-hermitage-museum-1940514#.YBWNiSAJlZ0.twitter

[7] https://www.france24.com/fr/%C3%A9missions/focus/20210107-irak-le-trafic-d-antiquit%C3%A9s-en-forte-hausse-pendant-la-pand%C3%A9mie?ref=tw

[8] https://www.forbes.com/sites/carlieporterfield/2020/04/30/smugglers-are-using-coronavirus-lockdowns-to-loot-artifacts/