Case Study: The Art of Offshore: Tax Avoidance and Unseen Artworks in the New Luxury Freeports

Research output: Working paperResearch


This paper introduces the concept of a Luxury Freeport to describe a novel form of offshore where art and other high-end goods can be stored indefinitely without tax and duty-payments being made. The paper makes three key contributions to our understanding of these new actors in the global political economy. First, drawing on an interdisciplinary mix of perspectives from political economy and economic geography, the paper conceptualizes Luxury Freeports as part of what has been called the ‘offshore world’. It shows that over the course of the last decade these previously understudied sites have become part of an evolving global ecosystem of tax avoidance that they have helped push to new frontiers, notably by permitting trade in high value goods without the payment of value-added or capital gains tax. Second, the paper attributes the rise of this new form of offshore to meso-level spillover effects within the offshore world itself: this new model of offshore was born from a combination of the competitive ‘push’ of the rapid spread of Open Customs Warehouses at the turn of the century and the investment ‘pull’ of large pools of money needing new investment outlets in the wake of the recent multilateral effort to clamp down on banking secrecy. Third, it examines how the development and diffusion of the Luxury Freeport model has been shaped and constrained by this international clampdown. Navigating the regulatory push against offshore and in an effort to mainstream and legitimize their activities, newer Luxury Freeports have explicitly aligned themselves both with the exclusive and high cultural capital environment of the art world and the ecosystem of specialized services offered by the wealth management industry, while also relying on government support or sponsorship.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUtrecht
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
SeriesCoffers Project Deliverables

Cite this