Through Art Market & You, Art From Us provides you Analysis, Opinion and Factual Reports regarding the current on-goings of the Global Art Market. In this article, we explore the Risk of Anonymity in Art.
Our Director Divvya Nirula presents reports from the international art market with the view to assist our collectors, investors, and all lovers of art.
Gone are the days when people collected art purely for aesthetic value. The cultural context of an artwork will always take precedence over all else. However, we can no longer pretend. Art is a commodity. It is traded like a commodity. And people invest in it for its money-value.
The Art Commodity
Interestingly, art does not function like other goods. If you want to buy a second-hand car, as a cautious buyer, you will do your due diligence. First you find out who the seller is and a little bit about their background. Next, you might compare their quotation to the market value of the car. Then you personally inspect the car for any damage. Finally, you make a decision to buy it. That’s how much time you invest in just a second-hand car. You don’t want to feel like you’ve been cheated.
Surprisingly, the art world does not function the same way. Since its very inception, the art market has thrived on anonymity. People prefer not to reveal their identity. They like to transact through agents. So, you could be dealing with the Prince of Wales or a businessman from Sweden – who knows. The thought of not knowing your buyer or seller has always added a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to transactions. But not in a good way.
Risk of Anonymity
Anonymity makes sales highly risky, especially since there are millions of dollars at stake. When you don’t know your buyer, you cannot vouch for the legitimacy of the sale. Time and again, auction houses have found themselves in hot water over issues relating to authenticity and ownership. Oftentimes, even the agent does not know the buyer or the seller. This arguably makes art the perfect vehicle for money-laundering.
Converting your black cash to white is fairly simple when you’re not forced to reveal any details about yourself. Starting with your name, how you came about the artwork you’re selling, or any financial records. None of these are required for a sale to be conducted. The art market will remain a hub for murky business until it embraces full disclosure.
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