Panama Papers Reveal Art Amongst the Secrets

While there are innumerable ways in which art is used for good - practical urban solutions, political action, emotional support - art too has the power to be used for bad. This is being demonstrated this week with the release of the Panama Papers, a massive data leak exposing how hundreds of the world's wealthiest political leaders and celebrities hide their money and evade paying their fair share of taxes. The details of the leak have only just begun to be released to the public. But it's clear that art collecting numbers amongst the range of activities used by these tax-avoiders as a way to conceal money. The first major example to come out is of Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire with ties to Putin. Through Mossack Fonseca, the law firm from where the leak originated, he created secret offshore shell accounts in order to hide artworks shared as assets with his ex-wife, including works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Rothko. More stories in this leak are sure to surface that involve hiding artworks with enormous price tags for a multitude of sketchy reasons. As they do, it only further illuminates the concerning nature of the speculative and wildly expensive private art buying market.    •