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random walk through Christie's
June 3, 2013 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Art, so difficult to value, is an ideal currency if you want to frustrate the banking regulations of the Patriot Act. So much easier than shipping honey. But who keeps this market orderly? And why would such an important person branch into other illegal activities such as gambling operations? Did he bore of backgammon?
posted by surplus (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously...
Art is not so difficult to value, at least for those in the industry. Auction estimates are usually accurate. And as far as an ideal currency, art is not very liquid, and deals do not happen quickly. Dealers and auction houses are required to report cash purchases in excess of $10K like banks.. so not sure how art dealing is evading the patriot act. Regarding honey.. probably easier for terrorists to launder money through things like honey than art. Art is not as simple a commodity as honey, it requires specialized knowledge, and it functions in a very small world. I think Art dealing would be low on the list for terrorists wanting to launder money.

The MSM likes to stir up intrigue, and the Nahmad story is certainly very newsworthy, shocking in fact. But, in the end I do not believe that the money laundering angle is going to be big in this case, or in the market at large. In general tax evasion is much more an issue, but relative to sales, not more than any other income instrument people cheat on.

Not sure what the dollar amount represents Helly's gambling, but compared to the total wealth and assets of the family I imagine it is a small fraction of one percent. Apparently he really likes to gamble. He seems to be extremely high spirited and extroverted as well.. fast cars etc.. I think his temperament got him into trouble more than anything intrinsic to his art dealing business.
posted by snaparapans at 7:15 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


And as far as an ideal currency,

Profits generated through art and antiques are given very favourable tax treatment across high-tax Europe and in that sense is the best currency of all. In Sweden profits from the sale of art and antiques are taxed at 12% with no VAT compared to 25% + 25% VAT for ordinary income.

It's just another corrupt tax avoidance scheme available only to the ultra rich.
posted by three blind mice at 10:19 PM on June 3, 2013


So...if art becomes a currency, what is its smallest unit, its cent? Perhaps one VHS copy of 'Jerry McGuire'?

Profits generated through art and antiques are given very favourable tax treatment across high-tax Europe...
That's because it also has the added benefit of keeping one's culture alive.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:35 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Profits generated through art and antiques are given very favourable tax treatment across high-tax Europe...

sexyrobot: "That's because it also has the added benefit of keeping one's culture alive.


This is one of those threads that screams "deconstruct art", until one realizes that deconstruction itself is a part of the elite's way to try to reinvent itself in a recursive way, with the same results that most art has today - and much of yesterday - i.e. boring.

Ask anyone uninitiated in the ways and "language" of art to take a walk through the MET or SFMOMA or any other museum of prominence. They may like some of what they see, but do they really get a good insight into "culture", in the larger sense of the word - outside the culture of private auctions, and "keeping up with the rich Joneses"?

Look, art sold at auction; art sold for millions and millions of dollars (admittedly, some of it good stuff, - i.e fun to look at, even to the uninitiated) is just a part of the "language of wealth". That's the culture that's being transmitted.

With some exceptions, probably 90% of museum or private auction art is costly because it's one way for some rich people to show their "taste" or their "bold venturing into new visions", and blah blah blah, by outbidding their rich peers. Once they have gone to the nth degree with that, they buy wings of museums with their names on it.

Sure, I enjoy going to see a Rothko or a DaVinci, etc. etc. It's fun, and it can even be educational, but please don't tell me that the last 100 years of "art" is a primary way to transmit culture, unless you're talking about the culture of rich people with nothing else to do but showoff their "taste".
posted by Vibrissae at 11:31 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


*sigh*
I guess what I really took offense with was this:

In Sweden profits from the sale of art and antiques are taxed at 12% with no VAT compared to 25% + 25% VAT for ordinary income. It's just another corrupt tax avoidance scheme available only to the ultra rich.

Which is just not true. Anyone can engage with art at any level in the market and invest, even profitably, at any level as well. There is art all around you, it's not just paintings on a wall and just because the iceberg has a tip doesn't mean there isn't a fuckton of ice below it. The idea that art is somehow just the domain of oligarch playboys is rather defeatist and blindered. Fine Art, photography, film, music, dance, games, you-name-it, it's hard to throw a rock these days without hitting a masterpiece. The reason it's subsidised (by lower taxes or whatever) is because it's incredibly beneficial to the word at large and employs a lot of people. And if you're choosing not to participate in art and your culture in some manner, for whatever reason, well...ew.

As far as this case goes, well, like any field, certain material objects aquire insane amounts of value (and that value changes hands) by the most obscure and arcane of methods. Some examples: a Gutenberg Bible, a pound of uranium, the Hubble Space Telescope, a professional football player's contract, George Washington's false teeth, the corpse of a caveman.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:15 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


In Sweden profits from the sale of art and antiques are taxed at 12% with no VAT compared to 25% + 25% VAT for ordinary income.

Who would have ever guessed that the US is relatively progressive in its taxation of art and antiques (collectibles)?

28% + state and city tax... NYC is about 33-35%.. long term capital gains on art and antiques.
posted by snaparapans at 6:46 AM on June 4, 2013


sexyrobot: So...if art becomes a currency, what is its smallest unit, its cent? Perhaps one VHS copy of 'Jerry McGuire'?

Profits generated through art and antiques are given very favourable tax treatment across high-tax Europe...
That's because it also has the added benefit of keeping one's culture alive.
In the visual arts, sure. The literary arts actually use the millishakespeare.

The units are independent, of course. Good literature can be contained in visually worthless wrappings, and books on great art have no perceptible correlation with good writing. For years artscientists have attempted to develop a Unified Theory of Art, but most believe this is a fruitless venture, worthy only of performance art (which itself is measured in Devos, except in America, which still uses the Barnum).
posted by IAmBroom at 10:59 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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