Art Vaults

Ana B. Remos

Duty free art storage in Geneva, Beijing and Singapore.


It is not an urban legend that great fortunes and important works of art are held in Switzerland. It is absolutely legal, safe and certainly not a secret. The place is Geneva’s Freeport, and the reason: they protect the interests of their clients; offer a favorable tax treatment and guarantee total safety and high efficiency. During the time the “goods” are stored, the owners pay no taxes or import fees (in other countries they would have to pay between 5 and 15%). And if the artwork is sold in the port, the owner does not have to pay transaction taxes. Once the piece leaves the port (whether sold or withdrawn by the owner) taxes are paid only in the country of destination.

Geneva Freeport Art Vault..

Given the global economic crisis, Switzerland will surely be facing some challenges. But Freeport Geneva assures its current and potential clients that the new Customs Legislation will not affect the suspension of custom duties and taxes, nor the storage duration (which is unlimited) for the merchandise in a fiscal warehouse.

The art storage business started in 1850, but it has intensified since 1988. The area covers 4.7 million square feet of state-of-the-art warehouse space, and nobody knows the number or the value of the artworks stored. That information is top secret, and that is exactly the point. But there is more: now they need even more space. In their 2011 report, where they published their accounts (those that can be published, of course), it appears that Freeport has begun construction of a new facility with 112,000 square feet for storage and conservation of artworks. That project should be completed at the end of 2013.

Freeport Geneva offers storage in vaults, safety boxes and in security areas; personnel specialized in handling the merchandise, client access to their “rooms”, customs warehousing procedures, which allow clients to show their merchandise; customs clearance, specialized transport and insurance coverage at preferential rates. A very curious fact: under their “special services”, appears something called “Legislations”. What do they mean? In the next few years, art dealers and collectors will have more and better choices for the storage and transit of their pieces around the world.

Beijing Free Port of Culture..

At Luxemburg Airport, a free zone of 215,000 square feet will open in 2014. This year began the construction of the Beijing Free Port of Culture at Beijing Capital International Airport. We will have to see it when it is finished. The free zone of Singapore opened in 2010, and there is already talk of doubling the space due to the enormous growth of their market, which is aimed at Asian collectors.

These activities are indicative of a great development in the art market, which obviously is in a phase of recovery with great movement.

It is clear that Art is not only stored in museums.


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