This February, leading Swiss art broker and billionaire, Yves Bouvier, was arrested in Monaco, accused of overpricing artworks, fraud, and complicity with money laundering. He heads an important art shipping firm and pioneered and owns Freeports storage facilities attached to airports, for example in Luxembourg and Singapore, where high value art, wines and goods can be held legally in duty-free zones. Swiss paper, Le Temps, has described his arrest as ‘an earthquake on the art market and in the closed circle of international collectors’, yet for Dmitry Tamoikin, this incident is symptomatic of the corruption which characterises the art world. Mr Tamoikin runs Tamoikin Art Fund, a company which seeks out and acquires the best items on the market at the best price for investors. In an interview with Shout Out UK he voiced his opinions on the incident and the state of the art industry in general.

What do you think will be the effect of the arrest of Yves Bouvier on the industry?

Dmitry Tomoikin: Nothing will change. As soon as the buzz in the media passes everything will go back to business as usual. It’s the nature of the art world which is completely unregulated, highly corrupt, and full of illegal activity. We think the financial markets are rigged but in comparison to the art market they are a beacon of light and transparency. This is in no way to praise the finance sector but rather to highlight the dire state of the art world.

Do you think the case calls for greater scrutiny of the art world?

DT: ‘Greater scrutiny’ are not the words I would use. More like a complete overhaul of the entire system. The things one can get away with using art are not just shocking – they are scary. For example, in 2011 we submitted a detailed report to RCMP, CIA and Interpol, explaining how art can be used to fund terrorism while completely bypassing all existing security measures. I’m not talking about the latest media revelations that ISIS is selling antiques on the black market. That’s common knowledge. What we uncovered is how any amount of money can be anonymously converted into art, anonymously moved to any country on this planet (completely legally may I add) and then anonymously sold. No red flags go up, no evidence to follow, nothing – until it’s too late. Do you see how this can be exploited by terrorists? You can fund terror cells anywhere on the planet, from London to New York, using art, antiques and collectibles. And what does the art community have to say about this – absolutely nothing. In fact it passively allows it to happen. Some organizations are even fighting any new regulations, all to keep the status quo, because regulation of this industry for them means loss of profit. This is just criminal.

By the way I haven’t even gone into some other interesting subjects like tax evasion, insurance fraud, theft, forgery, etc … .

What can art buyers do to avoid becoming victims of fraud and manipulation of prices?

DT: To avoid fraud you need a team of experts (or an organization) who:

A) you can trust

B) are accountable for their actions

C) know the art world in and out

D) are well connected

E) transparent and brutally honest

F) use science and understand the legal system.

The last two points are what you should really pay attention to – transparency, brutal honesty, science and law are the things that the art world has resisted since the beginning.

As for manipulation of prices – absolutely nothing. Well, to be honest we do have a solution but explaining it here would be too self-serving. If someone is interested they can contact us directly.

The art market, as we know it today, is a manifestation of big and small manipulations intended to solely benefit each individual manipulator, be it a small-time dealer or a major auction house. Unfortunately that’s the name of the game and it has a single objective – to sell “things” for as much as possible to someone else, using any means necessary. There are little to no laws to abide by, there are no regulations at all and any ethics goes out of the window the very moment profit comes into the picture. This must be clearly understood. The irony is that it’s very easy to see manipulation but almost impossible to prove. That’s why I think Mr Bouvier may face fraud charges but not price fixing accusations.

What is your opinion on Yves Bouvier’s Freeports?

DT: We never dealt with them personally so everything that I can say would be mere speculation. From the tabloids, if they can be trusted, I get the feeling that it was an organization that was not completely honest with their clients and they paid the price for it.

Why do you think the art industry is increasingly dominated by a desire for profit?

DT: Because a small group of major players turned it into exactly that – an industry. Imagine if you had the power of taking a $100 dollar artwork and selling it for $1 million; how about $10 million or $100 million? There are several organizations in the art world that do this all the time. The fact of the matter is, if you managed to get to the top of the pyramid in this business you literally have the power to print money. You don’t even need a sophisticated “Federal Reserve” printer to do it. An average artist, a few buckets of paint and lots of canvases will do the trick. The rest comes from your team of well-connected art promoters who will sell anything as long as they are getting paid for it. In the art world, power equals profit. Unfortunately these profit margins are so large that they completely stopped the natural evolution of artistic culture. Worst of all this is happening worldwide.

Do you think this desire for profit has gone too far?

DT: Yes, but not because there is no art that’s worth these high amounts of money. It has gone to far because the entire art world is becoming a giant factory that is making billions for the select few while contributing nothing back to the society. In fact I firmly believe that current trends in the world of art are degrading our culture. Art is becoming a cheap show where each artist must outperform the next with a more daring stunt in order to get the big bucks.

Do you think this increasingly exclusive market is good for art itself?

DT: No. The whole point of art is to express oneself and share this expression with the rest of the world. How does exclusivity help achieve this objective? Exclusivity is a tactic used by salesmen to sell more art. That said, I do not think this market is exclusive. There’s certainly art that is outside of the average person’s budget but overall there are plenty of very good artworks that are attainable by all. I would even go as far as to say that right now the best modern artists can be found not at the top but at the bottom of this market.

Do you think the increasing cost of fine art is alienating young people from the industry?

DT: I would say it’s doing the opposite. There are now too many young people who are attracted to art solely for profit. They do that because they see these multimillion dollar sales and think “I can paint that”. What’s concerning is that they are right, most of modern art that is sold at top auctions can be created by a ten-year-old child.

What young artists don’t understand is that selling art is less about what is on the canvas, and more about who you know, how well you can market yourself and your work but worst of all, how extreme do you have to become before people notice you. By now it has become a cliché. An artist must be an alcoholic, a drug addict, have a distorted lifestyle and above all die young (preferably by committing suicide) to be recognized in our Western art culture.

What can the industry do to attract the interest of younger generations?

DT: I think the industry has done enough, they have no shortage of young talent. Now is the time for the government to step in and regulate this industry so it moves away from profit towards culture.





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