insured artworks in free ports

On Sep 1, 2012, The Economist reported on insured art pieces and revealed that in the world’s largest free ports (special warehouses) in Geneva and Zurich, “well over $10 billion-worth of paintings, sculpture, jewels, gold, carpets and other items” are believed to be held. The majority of these are never displayed.

Several facts in this piece of news prompt the definition of value. Surely, there is a clear manifestation of the correlation of their embedded (auction/exchange) value and insured value. But when they almost entirely escape any exposure to and engagement with the outside world (The Economist noted in the free ports “they can change hands tax-free”), as if maintaining by a stream of insider activities an ecology of value, what happens to their real value? (Is there value from objects looking at objects in a speculative realistic interpretation?) Looking at the other side of the coin, we could ask, what is the real value of public perception of art pieces that are exhibited publicly in the name of public goods?

Disclaimer: the blog entries under “Research Updates” are findings and thoughts around the theme of art and insurances, they do not necessarily reflect the views of 5urich.

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