European Union Cracks Down on Syrian Art Buyers

Posted on July 23, 2012


Amidst continuing violence against anti-government protestors, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad and wife Asma have managed to maintain their lavish lifestyle.  Asma purchased thousands of dollars worth of designer goods online in 2011, and has attempted to purchase £5,000 to £10,500 worth of artwork from a London-based dealer.  In what appears to be a symbolic measure targeted at their lavish spending, the European Union has now placed a luxury-goods embargo on Syria.

The embargo effectively bans the export of art into Syria.  In doing so, it intertwines two fields that should remain separate, art and politics.  As director of Espace Kettaneh Kunigt Gallery Marc Mouarkech explains, “[a] ban on art between two countries is always a shame. [It puts] barriers between cultural exchange.”

It is unclear whether this ban, which is largely symbolic, will have any real impact.  The art export into Syria is already relatively low because wealthy Syrian nationals typically keep their art collections across national boarders. Many Syrians are calling for stronger actions, including founder of ‘Art Talks Egypt’ Fatenn Mostafa.  As Mostafa explains,  “we are not at the stage of symbolic gestures,” “people are dying . . . this is the time to act.”

Read the full article at The Art Newspaper: Art sanctions aim to hit Syria’s rich where it hurts.